Two is the magic number

Kimberly Lajcik/Daily Bruin

Everyone's up for UCLA's first-ever College World Series final.

OMAHA -- For the first time in history, the merchandise tents across from Rosenblatt Stadium are loaded with UCLA baseball championship-series gear.

Shirts, hats, posters -- it's all here. Dog tags, even.

The Bruins, making their first-ever appearance in the College World Series finals, hope another version of those commemorative souvenirs is on the horizon.

"Every day we go in the Hall of Fame room and we go in the weight room and you see all the national championships, and baseball doesn't have anything underneath it," head coach John Savage said. "It's a gut check every time you see it, knowing that you could do something special and put it up there."

The first game of a best-of-three series with South Carolina comes tonight, with ace right-hander Gerrit Cole taking the mound for the Bruins. The sophomore won his previous start in a 6-3 win over Texas Christian, striking out 13 and giving up five hits in eight dominant innings.

But despite earlier success, Cole knows the Gamecocks pose an interesting challenge. South Carolina lost its first game in Omaha, but followed that up by winning its next four to get to the finals.

"I've watched them throughout the World Series," Cole said. "They're an extremely resilient team. They have quite a few tremendous players, a lot of big-name players."

UCLA (3-1), the only remaining national seed at No. 6, has played well on the big stage. The arms have continued to be the story, as opposing batters have combined to hit .195 and strike out 48 times in 35 frames.

But the Bruins bats, perhaps a bit overlooked by some pundits, have carried their weight as well. UCLA is hitting .324 as a team, led by top-of-the-order pest Beau Amaral's 7-for-15 effort.

It's clear to see that all facets are coming together at the right time. Two wins separate UCLA from championship merchandise.