OMAHA, Neb. — The College World Series is no time for rest, not when you are trying to win your school's first national championship in baseball.
South Carolina's Blake Cooper wanted the ball for Game 1 of the best-of-three CWS final, even if it meant a second consecutive start off a mere three days' rest. Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner hesitated at first, but ended up glad he let his senior right-hander talk him into the idea.
Cooper allowed three hits in eight-plus innings and Bobby Haney drove in a career-high three runs, moving the Gamecocks one victory from the national title with a 7-1 decision over UCLA on Monday night.
"I certainly wanted to pitch him today," Tanner said of Cooper. "But I encouraged him to take another day, if he felt that it would be in his best interests."
Cooper (13-2) shook his coach off.
"I really didn't think another day was going to matter at this point," he said.
Cooper struck out 10 and carried a one-hitter into the ninth before running into trouble. Fans of South Carolina (53-16) cheered a drawn-out "COOOOOP" as he left, after 136 pitches and the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth. Reliever John Taylor finished, but not before the Bruins (51-16) broke up the shutout when Cody Regis scored on a double-play grounder.
"I just wanted to do what I've been doing all year, go out and give my team a chance to win," Cooper said.
Game 2 is Tuesday. Game 3, if necessary, is Wednesday.