Reporting from Omaha — Both teams stood one out from elimination.
UCLA (51-15) and South Carolina (52-16) will play for the College World Series title but know good fortune was on their side at some point during the tournament. The teams begin a best-of-three series Monday at 4:30 p.m. PDT at Rosenblatt Stadium knowing their seasons could already have been over.
"We were literally one out away from being two and out in the super regionals," UCLA Coach John Savage said. "And I never sensed any quit. I didn't sense any panic, you know, the season being over."
After losing the first game, the Bruins were down to the last out when they trailed Cal State Fullerton by one run in a super regional. Blair Dunlap drew a walk and Tyler Rahmatulla hit a two-run home run to extend the game before UCLA won, 11-7, in 10 innings. The Bruins won the deciding game, 8-1, to advance to the CWS.
"The guys just kept on battling," Savage said. "So it's a credit to the character of our team that we're here."
South Carolina knows the feeling. The Gamecocks lost their opener in the CWS, meaning they faced elimination the last four games. They were nearly sent home by Oklahoma, trailing by a run with Jackie Bradley at the plate with two out and two strikes in the 12th inning.
Bradley singled home the tying run and scored the winner when Brady Thomas followed with a single.
"It's part of the game," South Carolina Coach Ray Tanner said. "It doesn't work out for you all the time. I tell the players all the time it's a game of percentages. It's going to get you. But if you play it the right way and have a good approach, you're going to get yours too."
Now, UCLA and South Carolina are two victories shy of winning their first national championship. A Bruins victory would cap a remarkable turnaround. Last year, they finished 27-29.
"It's been an unbelievable experience, just a complete turnaround, 180 degrees from last year," said pitcher Gerrit Cole, who will start Monday. "I can't express enough gratitude for the other 35 guys on this team to put in the same kind of emotions and just be so driven to get here."