Beau Amaral (25) and the UCLA Bruins hope to get off to a good start Saturday against No. 3-seeded Florida.
Most single-season wins in program history? Check. A Super Regional series victory leading to a College World Series bid in the last season at Rosenblatt Stadium? Check and check.
Those accomplishments are all fine and dandy, but there's one remaining goal for the UCLA baseball team -- a goal the Bruins hope to step closer to today in their CWS opener against Florida on ESPN.
UCLA is in Omaha, Neb. for the first time since 1997 thanks to a program-best 48 single-season victories. The following are a few things you need to know before the fun begins.
Why UCLA can win it all:
Pitching, pitching, pitching. The word needs to be stressed three times here because head coach John Savage has three aces at his disposal. Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer (today's starter) and Rob Rasmussenare each capable of completely shutting down the opposition. Cole is your power guy, Bauer your finesse guy, Rasmussen your sneaky-good left-hander. Then there's the bullpen, which features Garett Claypool, Matt Grace, Erik Goeddel and closer Dan Klein. When the opponent scores two runs or less -- and it's happened 30 times this spring -- UCLA is 29-1. Perhaps most notably, the Bruins won eight of 11 one-run games. If the College World Series turns into an arms race, look for UCLA (2.97 team ERA) to keep winning.
Player to watch:Kimberly Lajcik/Daily Bruin
Sophomore pitcher Trevor Bauer (right) plays a pivotal role as the Game 1 starter.
Bauer will be the tone-setter: win and the Bruins slide into a favorable spot as favorites to advance to the championship round, lose and the team will have to fight off elimination two days later. The sophomore right-hander will again make a Saturday start, though it's not a Game 2 like in a typical weekend series. Savage, though, insists that Bauer wants the ball in his hands. As mentioned earlier, Savage has the luxury to pick from a starting rotation that features three pitchers with 10 or more wins and 115 or more strikeouts.
Chompin' at the bit:Playing away from Westwood should not be a big issue for UCLA, which went 19-4 in 23 road games this season. Playing against unfamiliar competition should not be a problem, either. The Bruins are 30-5 against non-Pac-10 teams -- with three of those losses coming against Super Regional contestant Cal State Fullerton. Like UCLA, Florida swept through its Regional with easy wins over Bethune-Cookman (7-3), Oregon State (10-2) and Florida Atlantic (15-0). The Gators needed just two games to do away with Miami (Fla.) and punch their tickets for Omaha.
Notes: UCLA is making its third trip to the College World Series (1969 and 1997 were the other years) ... The Bruins placed in second behind No. 1 national seed Arizona State in the Pac-10 Conference this season. ASU swept a three-game set at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium in early May ... If UCLA loses to Florida, it faces the loser of TCU-Florida State on Monday. If it wins, it faces the winner of the same game ... Game-time forecasts call for a 50 percent chance of rain Saturday.