South Carolina, UCLA seeking first CWS crown
OMAHA, Neb. - UCLA has won a nation-leading 106 NCAA championships in 17 sports. Not one of them is in baseball - yet. The Bruins' chance is here, against South Carolina, in the best-of-three College World Series finals starting tonight (7:30; ESPN). "It's obviously known as a basketball school with Coach (John) Wooden and everything he did at UCLA and all the national championships and all the NBA players, and then certainly football has a rich tradition as well, and softball and gymnastics and volleyball and golf," UCLA coach John Savage said Sunday. "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."UCLA made it to the CWS in 1969 and 1997 and went 0-2 each time. The Bruins are in the finals a year after finishing 27-29 and not making the 64-team NCAA Tournament. They've ridden the strong pitching of starters Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen, and their offense has been timely, cranking out 15 hits in Saturday's 10-3 win against TCU. South Carolina reached the CWS finals in 1975, 1977 and 2002, losing each time under the old tournament format that ended with a single national championship game. The best-of-three finals started in 2003, a year too late for Coach Ray Tanner and the Gamecocks. "Back when we were in this position before, we had finished on an early evening on a Friday, and we had a noon game on Saturday. It was set up for television," Tanner said. "We were excited. We were energetic. It was a short turnaround and it wasn't the best-of-three. Is that going to make it easier for us? Absolutely not. But I think it's the way that it should be done. "Two teams left. Best-of-three. You get a variety of pitchers out there in the games, whether it's a two-game or three-game set. We're all used to the series mentality." UCLA will start Cole (11-3), the New York Yankees' 2008 first-round pick, in Game 1. Tanner didn't say his choice to start. He's deciding among Blake Cooper (12-2), Tyler Webb (3-2) and Jay Brown (3-0). Cooper has started twice in the CWS but would be coming off only three days' rest. The Gamecocks have won four elimination games to get here.