College Baseball World Series Bracket 2012: Irony for UCLA in Return to Omaha

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterJune 14, 2012

Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Here's a pitch for another ESPN 30 For 30 special:

What if I told you that a team lost its two best players and actually did better the very next year?

That's exactly what's happened with the UCLA baseball team, which will begin its latest quest for the school's first College World Series title in Omaha on Friday against Stony Brook.

The Bruins had nine players taken in the 2011 MLB Draft, including star pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. They went first and third overall, respectively.

And yet, last year's team proved to be a severe disappointment.

True, the Bruins won their first Pac-10 title in over a decade and their seventh conference crown overall, but they failed to advance out of the regional.

This, after finishing as the runner-up to South Carolina in Omaha in 2010 and ranking in the top three of just about every preseason poll in 2011.

So Cole and Bauer left, and UCLA came into the season ranked no higher than 14th.

All the Bruins did was go 42-14 during the regular season, capture their second straight Pac-10 championship and sweep their way through five more home games at Jackie Robinson Stadium to book their second trip to Nebraska in three years.

Not that getting there at all guarantees that UCLA, the school with the most NCAA championships in the history of collegiate athletics, will take home its first on the diamond.

John Savage's squad will have to fight its way through a heady collection of competitors: a Stony Brook bunch loaded with southern Californians, Pac-10 rival Arizona, Florida, Florida State and two-time defending champion South Carolina.

If the Bruins pull it off, they'll have done so without a player drafted higher than 57th overall.

They'll have done so with a solid pitching staff and a balanced offense that produces runs, even without the benefit of overwhelming power.

Maybe not 30 For 30 material, but not exactly a bad story either.