OMAHA, Neb. –
The loss of Tyler Rahmatulla to a broken wrist before the College World Series left two holes for UCLA, and both were gaping.
Rahmatulla batted third in 61 games for the Bruins and started at second base, a crucial defensive position behind a star-studded pitching staff.
On Monday at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium, both of his replacements filled in admirably, both in the field and at the plate, in UCLA’s 6-3 win over TCU.
Dean Espy entered the starting lineup at third base, with Cody Regis sliding over to second, and the UCLA sophomore had a beautiful play in the third innings.
After Gerrit Cole walked Aaron Schultz with one down in the third inning, Espy caught a smoking drive down the third base line by Horned Frogs’ No. 9-hitter Brance Rivera, and fired the ball to first nail Schultz for the double play.
It was a far cry from Saturday’s 11-3 win over Florida, when Espy and Regis looked a bit nervous early against the Gators.
“We were a little shaky those first couple innings,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “It was like, ‘Oh, God, what’s going on at third? What’s going on at second?!?’ Hey, we’re gonna have moments. But we’ve also prepared for those moments.”
Regis, meanwhile, did his damage at the plate.
The Glendora High product smashed a two-run home run over the left field wall to put the Bruins up 3-0 in the third inning.
“When Tyler went down it was a shock to us all,” Regis said. “Coach called me, told me that I’d have to be ready to play second base. … It’s been a little bit of a crazy ride.”
With Espy coming up big again in the ninth inning, the Bruins certainly have the confidence to advance.
Espy charged a weak grounder and gunned out Taylor Featherston – whose three-run triple in the seventh inning was TCU’s only real threat – at first base to end the game, the win putting UCLA in cruise control for the championship series.