Tuesday, September 26

UCLA baseball prepares for College World Series opener against No. 3 Florida despite Tyler Rahmatulla’s injury

It has been 13 years since the UCLA baseball team’s last appearance in the College World Series.

The team is hoping that that number proves to be a lucky one for it.

The Bruins (48-14) clinched a trip to Omaha, Neb. with an undefeated run through the Los Angeles Regional and a series victory over Cal State Fullerton in the Super Regionals, both of which UCLA hosted.

Now, the Bruins will leave the friendly confines of Jackie Robinson Stadium for the historic grounds of Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. It’s one J.R.S. for another, but that’s about the only thing that will remain the same once UCLA arrives in Omaha.

UCLA will open the College World Series Saturday against No. 3 Florida (47-15). Also in the four-team, double-elimination bracket with the Bruins and the Gators are Texas Christian and Florida State.

The four teams on the other side of the bracket are No. 1 Arizona State, Clemson, Oklahoma and South Carolina. At No. 6, the Bruins are third-highest seed remaining. The winners of each bracket will meet in a best-of-three series to determine the national champion.

Starting the opener for UCLA will be sophomore Trevor Bauer, who has been on the mound for two Bruin wins thus far in the postseason. The decision to start Bauer is somewhat surprising given that fellow sophomore Gerrit Cole has started the opener of every series this season, although those games generally fall on Fridays.

Florida will counter with an equally young and equally talented pitching staff of their own; the Gators’ rotation consists of two freshmen and a sophomore. TCU, meanwhile, features ace Matt Purke, while Florida State appears to have the weakest rotation of the four teams in UCLA’s side of the bracket.

Bauer starting the opener won’t be the only alteration for UCLA, from a personnel standpoint. Second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla, who started all but one game this season and hit in the all-important third spot in the batting order, will miss the College World Series after breaking his wrist in the celebratory dogpile following UCLA’s clinching victory in the Super Regionals.

To replace the sophomore, coach John Savage will likely move freshman Cody Regis from third base to second base, with sophomore Dean Espy taking over at third. The more pressing concern is who will replace Rahmatulla in the lineup.

In what has been a record-setting and historic season for the UCLA baseball program, Rahmatulla’s injury was a rare instance of bad luck. The Bruins are hoping that’s the extent of it.

Compiled by Ryan Eshoff, Bruin Sports senior staff.

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