OMAHA—UCLA got close enough to the national championship trophy to touch it.
That's exactly what sophomore righthander Trevor Bauer did during the postgame handshake line, giving the trophy a wistful pat after he congratulated South Carolina catcher Kyle Enders, who was carrying it.
UCLA's long journey ended in disappointment Tuesday night, as the Bruins lost a scintillating 2-1 game in 11 innings against South Carolina in the second game of the College World Series Finals. That journey began with a 22-0 streak at the start of the season and continued with a dominating run through the Los Angeles Regional. The Bruins were one out away from elimination in the second game of their super regional against Cal State Fullerton, but a ninth-inning comeback kept their season alive, and lefthander Rob Rasmussen overpowered the Titans the next day to send UCLA to Omaha for the first time since 1997.
The Bruins had never won a CWS game before this year, when they won three games to reach the Finals.
"This team can say that they have been the best team in UCLA history, which is a long and rich tradition," coach John Savage said after Tuesday's loss. "And I just can't say how proud I am about every single person that's been part of our program."
Rasmussen, who started Tuesday and gave the Bruins six shutout innings, said the UCLA locker room was understandably emotional after the loss, but he tried to put the season into perspective.
"To get so close and to fall short hurts," he said. "But I think maybe later tonight or tomorrow, as it all kind of sinks in and as we look back on it, we're all going to be proud of what we did. We were under .500 last year at 27-29. And we really were, like Coach, said, the best team that this school has ever seen."
The good news for UCLA is that the future is bright. Rasmussen and closer Dan Klein will head to professional ball, but co-aces Gerrit Cole and Bauer will be back to anchor what should again be one of the nation's best pitching staffs. The lineup was young this year and could return every starter. And now that the Bruins know how to get to Omaha, getting back should be easier.
"They've experienced the rigors of the regionals and super regionals and the bracket of coming out and playing for a national championship," Savage said. "So now every player in that locker room knows what it feels like, all the hard work and all the sacrifice to get to where they are. And we can sit there and be very proud of our entire program. Now the bar has been raised, and we look to be back as soon as possible."
• South Carolina's championship formula was defense and pitching. The Gamecocks led all teams with a .979 fielding percentage in Omaha and seven double plays. And South Carolina's pitching staff posted a 2.15 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 12 walks while holding opponents to a .191 batting average. The Gamecocks allowed four runs or fewer in all seven of their CWS games. Their team ERA is the lowest by a national champion since Texas posted a 1.40 ERA in 2005, and it is the second-lowest since 1996. And South Carolina's bullpen went 3-0, 1.33 with 21 strikeouts and one walk over 20 exceptional innings. The 'pen did not issue a walk until the ninth inning of the final game Tuesday.
• South Carolina's win marked the fifth time a CWS championship has been won in extra innings, and the first time since 1970. The Gamecocks are the ninth team to win two extra-inning games in Omaha. South Carolina is also the first team to play four one-run games in a single CWS.
The Gamecocks also set a CWS Finals record by leaving 14 runners on base. The two teams left a combined 26 runners on base, also a Finals record.
"Well, it was very hairy there for a while for me. I didn't know if we were ever going to scratch out any runs, and we were able to tie the thing up and push it to extra innings," Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. "It really was who we were this year. And to have an extra-inning, 2-1 game end this way is magnificent."
• For the sixth time in the last seven years, the CWS champion was not a national seed. From 1999-2003, a national seed won the title every year.
• The final game of the CWS drew the biggest crowd of the event: 24,390. The total attendance (330,922) ranks second all-time, but the average attendance was down markedly from a year ago—from 22,405 to 20,683. Weather played a part in the dip; storms forced Game Four last Sunday to be postponed until Monday morning, when it was the first game of the first CWS tripleheader in 30 years. That game drew just 14,198 fans, but that was still better than both "if necessary" games to decide the bracket championships the following Saturday. The UCLA-TCU game that day drew 10,907—the smallest CWS crowd since 1991—and the Clemson-South Carolina game drew just 12,593. Stifling heat was one factor in that day's poor attendance, and the inability to plan in advance for "if necessary" games was another.
• South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 CWS. Though his 22-game hitting streak was snapped in the final game against UCLA, Bradley hit .345 in Omaha with a Series-high nine RBIs. He also kept South Carolina's season alive with a two-out, two-strike, game-tying RBI single in the 12th inning of an elimination game against Oklahoma. The entire all-CWS team:
C: Bryan Holaday, Texas Christian
1B: Christian Walker, South Carolina
2B: Cody Regis, UCLA
3B: John Hinson, Clemson
SS: Taylor Featherston, TCU
OF: Beau Amaral, UCLA
OF: Jackie Bradley Jr., South Carolina
OF: Evan Marzilli, South Carolina
DH: Brady Thomas, South Carolina
P: Trevor Bauer, UCLA
P: Matt Purke, TCU
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