LOS ANGELES—It can be stated with conviction that Rob Rasmussen's career at UCLA got off on the wrong foot. In his first collegiate start in 2008 against UC Santa Barbara, a screaming line drive through the box caught Rasmussen squarely on the left foot, breaking it.
Rasmussen, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound lefthander, returned to the mound later in the 2008 season. He started a Super Regional game against Cal State Fullerton, only to be removed after surrendering three runs and six hits in three innings.
Rasmussen, now a junior, pitched brilliantly and gained a measure of redemption Sunday as UCLA beat Fullerton, 8-1, in the third and deciding game of the 2010 Los Angeles Super Regional, earning the Bruins a spot in the College World Series. A second-round selection of the Marlins in last week's draft, Rasmussen allowed the Titans a run in the first inning and then shut them down the rest of the way.
In pitching his first complete game of the season, Rasmussen allowed just two hits, one run (earned), walked one and struck out nine. After the game, Rasmussen expounded on the reasons behind his improvement over the past three years.
"It's been a growing process. I gained a lot of confidence, and I turned a corner leading into this season," he said. "I had no changeup coming out of high school; now that is a big pitch for me. I've also learned to define my fastball and now I have much better command."
Sunday's game had none of the impossible drama that the first two games on Friday and Saturday possessed. The Bruins marched to a methodical win, scoring three in the third, two in the sixth, and one in the seventh. Beau Amaral's home run in the eighth provided the final margin and sealed Fullerton's fate.
UCLA will be making its third trip to the CWS, having visited Omaha previously in 1969 and 1997. Fullerton coach Dave Serrano was magnanimous in defeat: "UCLA will represent the West in a wonderful way . . . I hope they win the national championship.
"Our team is feeling devastation . . . UCLA won but they had their hands full. This Titan team will be very close to my heart for a long time."
In this series, Titans shortstop Christian Colon showed why he is one of the finest Division I position players in the nation, going 4-for-11 with a home run, scoring three times and playing excellent defense. Chosen by the Royals as the fourth overall pick in the draft, Colon was emotional as he spoke of the certain end to his collegiate career.
"I had a blast. We have the best coaching staff in the country," he said. "This man (Serrano) did so much for me. Going pro is exciting . . . but I'm very proud to be a Titan."
UCLA coach John Savage was delighted—and relieved—in victory. "I congratulate Cal State Fullerton . . . this was the toughest (Super Regional) in the country." Optimistic about his chances in Omaha, Savage added, "We feel we have as good a pitching staff as any team in the country."