Gerrit Cole’s effort propels UCLA past TCU

Reporting from Omaha -- It was hard determining whether UCLA’s Gerrit Cole was the starter or reliever in the eighth inning.

When most would show fatigue, Cole was still throwing as if it were his first pitch. After the Bruins lineup provided early fireworks, Cole finished strong and got help from closer Dan Klein in a 6-3 victory over Texas Christian on Monday in the College World Series.

UCLA advanced to the semifinal round, where it will face Florida State (which eliminated Florida) or Texas Christian on Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium. Either team will have to defeat the Bruins twice to advance to the championship series.

“Gerrit was solid as you can be all night long,” UCLA Coach John Savage said. “You talk about a guy who had good bullpen sessions and was totally focused. He’s a guy that stepped up on the big stage. You just can’t say enough about Gerrit’s performance.”

Cole (11-3) gave up five hits and struck out 13 before turning things over to Klein in the ninth inning. Klein earned his 10th save by getting shortstop Taylor Featherston to ground out to third base.

But it was Cole who had the stadium buzzing.

The most impressive thing about the performance was how he responded after Texas Christian temporarily solved the puzzle. Cole was nearly flawless until the seventh inning, when the Horned Frogs made a tiny dent.

The Bruins led, 5-0, behind a two-run home run by Cody Regis and a solo shot from Jeff Gelalich in the third inning, before the momentum shifted. After Texas Christian loaded the bases, Featherston tripled to center field to drive in three runs.

Despite Cole’s appearing rattled, Savage decided to stick with his ace in a two-run game. Cole ended the inning by striking out center fielder Aaron Schultz with a 96-mph fastball.

“We still had a two-run lead,” Cole said. “I still felt really good.”

Cole struck out the first two batters in the eighth before running into a little trouble. He walked Bryan Holaday, prompting Savage to head toward the mound with plans of making a change.

Cole convinced Savage otherwise, telling his coach to trust him. On the next pitch, he forced Jason Coats to hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.

“Cole showed why he’s an All-American with the way he pitched after the seventh inning,” Texas Christian Coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “That was really, really impressive.”

In another first-round game, Clemson defeated top-seeded Arizona State, 6-3.

The Tigers tagged Seth Blair (12-1) for five runs and seven hits with five walks in 41/3 innings to advance to a winner’s bracket game against Oklahoma on Tuesday.

The Sun Devils meet South Carolina in an elimination game Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report