Pitcher Rob Rasmussen helped the UCLA baseball team make reservations for the College World Series in Omaha, throwing a complete game two-hitter against Cal State Fullerton in the Los Angeles Super Regional finale.
Rob Rasmussen didn't seem flustered until he gloved a comebacker in the ninth frame, awkwardly running towards first before flinging the ball for the second out of the ninth inning.
The second-round selection in last week's Major League Baseball Draft was an out away from tossing his first-career complete game, an out away from sealing UCLA's first trip to the College World Series since 1997, an out away from getting past recent nemesis Cal State Fullerton.
A few minutes later, the 5-foot-11 junior left-hander was throwing his mitt 25 feet in the air, jumping up and down, losing the composure he had spent all night building before getting mobbed by teammates.
"This year I really turned a corner," Rasmussen said.
And now, thanks to Rasmussen's two-hit gem, the No. 6-seeded Bruins have turned the corner too -- except that their route leads East, to legendary Rosenblatt Stadium.
"We needed to do this as a program," UCLA head coach John Savage said following an 8-1 victory Sunday night. "Now it's on to Omaha."
At one point, aces Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer stretched in the bullpen, just in case Rasmussen encountered trouble. But there was no need for the two right-handers -- or any of the Bruins' mighty relievers -- with Rasmussen retiring 15 consecutive batters before issuing a leadoff walk in the ninth.
Rasmussen had given up a seeing-eye single to Fullerton leadoff batter Christian Colon in the first before Colon -- this year's fourth-overall pick -- came around to break a scoreless tie. All Rasmussen allowed after that was a hit and a walk.
"His stuff was good," Colon said. "He mixed his pitches well and he had that chip on his shoulder."
"I felt that he got better, actually," Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano said. "There was a small window of opportunity in the first four innings."
But every inning must have felt like an eternity as Rasmussen kept hanging zeroes, kept stirring the 1,967 in attendance, kept making what figures to be his final appearance at Jackie Robinson Stadium all the more memorable. He won his team-leading 11th game of the year, a feat that had last been accomplished by fellow lefty Jim Parque in -- you guessed it -- 1997.
And with the way Rasmussen was throwing, luck was the last thing UCLA needed. Yet, that's exactly what the Bruins got with two outs and two runners on in the third, when Fullerton center fielder Joey Siddons dropped a routine liner off the bat of Tyler Rahmatulla. The go-ahead runs would scamper home and Rasmussen would get all the support he needed.
"I didn't really ask [Giddons]," Serrano said regarding the dropped ball. "What I saw from 340 feet away, it looked like it had some top spin and made it tougher to catch. It was a big play in the game, but things happen."
UCLA's center fielder Beau Amaral, meanwhile, did more than enough to help Rasmussen, going 3 for 4 with three runs scored and three driven in -- the latter two coming on a blast to right that pushed UCLA's lead to 8-1 and sparked chants of "O-ma-ha, O-ma-ha!" in the eighth.
"We felt very confident about this team since the fall," Savage said. "We felt like we had the pieces."
Now Savage is hoping those pieces align themselves in the Cornhusker state.