CWS Preview: UCLA's Trio Strikes Fear
June 16, 2010
By Jonathan Raber
Special to NCAA.com
LOS ANGELES - Three of a kind they are not.
No, Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen are undeniably different entities - from their pitching styles to the way they carry themselves on and off the mound.
What they do share in common, however, is a propensity for making opposing hitters look overmatched and leaving teams scrambling for answers.
Together this trio of UCLA hurlers makes up what may be the most potent starting rotation heading to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
"We feel that we have as good of pitching as anyone in the country," UCLA coach John Savage said.
The numbers back up that claim, considering the sixth-seeded Bruins (48-14) enter their opener against third-seeded Florida (47-15) on Saturday with the second-best ERA in the nation at 2.97, due in large part to their three-headed monster.
So, just who are Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen?
Cole (10-3, 3.25 ERA) is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore right-hander and the most polished of the bunch. A first-round pick by the New York Yankees out of high school, he is armed with a fastball that routinely resides in the mid-to-high 90s and owns a bulldog mentality, not afraid to challenge hitters.
Bauer (10-3, 3.02 ERA), a fellow sophomore right-hander, prefers the off-speed stuff over the high heat. He features a five-pitch repertoire, with confidence to throw each pitch in any situation, a trait that keeps hitters off balance and unable to sit on any one pitch.
Cole and Bauer get much of the publicity, and perhaps, deservingly so. Both were named second-team All-Americans and finished the season tied for the Pac-10 lead in strikeouts with 124 heading into tournament play, in addition to serving as members of last summer's USA Baseball National Team.
Then there is Rasmussen (11-2, 2.73 ERA), a recent second-round draft pick of the Florida Marlins. The elder statesman of the group, the junior lefty brings his unique dynamic in that he throws with the opposite arm and unleashes a devastating curveball that disappears across the plate.
"We bring three different pitching styles to the table," Cole said. "It's one of our strengths and we play to it."
Working from the third spot in the rotation, Rasmussen definitely made a case for the title of staff ace last weekend, pitching a gem in a win over Cal State Fullerton in the elimination game of the NCAA Division I Super Regionals on Sunday.
He allowed just a pair of hits and struck out nine batters in his first career complete game as the Bruins posted an 8-1 win and advanced to the World Series for only the third time in school history and first since 1997.
"He proved to be every bit as good as anybody we've got." Savage said.
Not that the masterful performance came as a surprise to either of his two buddies.
"He could easily be our Friday guy and could easily be our Saturday guy," Bauer said. "He's right up there at the top of the line with everybody else on our staff."
Cole and Bauer have put together some unbelievable performances of their own this season, during which UCLA went 22-0 out of the gate.
Cole had one of his finer moments when he struck out a career-high 15 batters against Texas A&M Corpus Christy on March 12 and Bauer was named MVP of Regional play for striking out 11 batters in eight-plus innings of a clinching win against defending national champs LSU.
"There is definitely some friendly competition," Cole said. "But we tend to talk a lot about the other hitters, about offensive strategies, how we went after guys and what worked and what didn't."
Despite their individual successes, and there have been many, the three Southern California natives are likely to want to talk about the other two or the team more than themselves.
"All three of us together is what makes us a good staff," Rasmussen said.
While modesty is not in short supply with this group by any means, there is one thing they all won't hesitate to admit - each is elated to not have to step into the batter's box and face one another.
If only opposing hitters in Omaha were so lucky to have that choice.