Reporting from Omaha, Neb. — UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer has spent much of his time here explaining why he prefers to wear a faded, worn hat.
He says new ones make him look like a train conductor.
Still, it may have been just as fitting for Bauer to yell "All aboard!" while the Bruins rode his arm to a 10-3 victory against Texas Christian on Saturday in the College World Series. The Bruins, making their first appearance in the finals, begin a best-of-three series against South Carolina at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Rosenblatt Stadium. The Gamecocks eliminated Clemson, 4-3, on Saturday.
"One of the things we talked about is kind of establishing a new tradition and kind of setting the tone for the program going forward," said Bauer, a sophomore who has worn the same hat for two years. "And it's been one of our main driving goals all year. So we've kind of been doing that, and to be here in this position, it means a lot to us."
Bauer's performance kept the Bruins' pitching staff in good shape for the championship series. Coach John Savage began warming up starter Gerrit Cole in the fourth inning when Bauer, who had already given up a homer to TCU's Bryan Holaday in the first, ran into trouble with runners on first and third with no outs.
After TCU designated hitter Joe Weik hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2, Bauer closed the inning with two strikeouts. He pitched eight innings, allowing four hits and two walks. His 13 strikeouts brought his season total to 165, the most in the NCAA, but more important, Bauer's performance allowed Cole to start Monday.
"So it turned out in the best scenario we could draw it up," Savage said. "Cole will start on Monday, and he got his bullpen work in. We were very fortunate, because we were going to go to him if Trevor ran into any problems."
UCLA (51-15) recovered from Friday's 6-2 loss to the Horned Frogs, a game Savage said wasn't "Bruins baseball." Things returned to normal for the third meeting between the teams in the CWS.
The Bruins opened by scoring five runs in the first, prompting TCU Coach Jim Schlossnagle to pull starter Kyle Winkler after he faced three batters. By then, he had hit a batter, allowed a single and then given up a three-run homer to senior Blair Dunlap.
The Horned Frogs (54-14) pulled to within 6-3 in the fifth on Holaday's solo homer, but they couldn't overcome Bauer's pitching and the Bruins' hitting. Bauer held TCU without a hit over the next three innings, and he struck out the side in the eighth.
UCLA scored two runs in both the sixth and seventh innings, highlighted by a solo homer from Dean Espy.
"It says a lot about our program," Dunlap said. "And being here for five years, I've seen a lot. And I've been through different coaches and coaching staffs, and where our program has come today, we've made leaps and bounds."