BERKELEY -- UCLA baseball head coach John Savage might still be kicking himself for missing the end of this one.
No. 10 UCLA scored three runs in the ninth after twice being down to its final strike, eventually leaving Evans Diamond with an 8-7 victory over California. The Golden Bears had assumed a lead with three runs in the previous inning -- just moments after the Bruins took a lead of their own.
Savage, though, missed all the drama and heroics after getting tossed for arguing a balk called on starter Gerrit Cole in the eighth. The sixth-year coach could have easily walked back to the dugout without dragging out his debate, but he knew how important the series opener was for UCLA (39-11, 14-8 Pac-10).
"I need a little recap, actually," Savage said with a smirk. "They put me in the solitary confinement. I saw the three on the scoreboard and said, "Oh gosh, what happened?' Then I saw our three runs. It was gut-wrenching."
After getting thrown out of the game, Savage was escorted into the visitor's changing room in the adjacent Haas Pavilion -- where only the stadium's scoreboard was visible. All Savage could do was keep an eye on the numbers.
Sophomore Tyler Rahmatulla provided him with some relief, managing to bloop a game-tying RBI single to right field after being down to his final strike. Freshman Beau Amaral -- who had just driven in a run facing a two-strike count of his own -- scored the go-ahead run from first when Cal right fielder Danny Oh misplayed Rahmatulla's hit.
The call from John Ramey of the UCLA radio network:
"If we want to play in Omaha, we have to be able to win games like that," Rahmatulla said. "I wanted that knock so bad. I had to stay as relaxed as possible."
Imagine how Savage was feeling.
Cal (27-20,11-11) had scored the go-ahead runs off usually reliable closer Dan Klein during a three-run eighth. Marcus Semien homered to left field despite a strong wind that messed with fly balls all afternoon.
"Our morale was fine," Klein said. "[Shortstop] Niko [Gallego] came up to me after that and told me to get the next guy so we could go get the win. We're playing with a lot of confidence right now. We all have each other's backs."
Savage can only hope that the team's video crew had his back by capturing the final inning on tape.