OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Blake Cooper allowed three hits in eight-plus innings and Bobby Haney drove in a career-high three runs, moving South Carolina within a win of its first national title with a 7-1 victory over UCLA in Game 1 of the College World Series finals Monday night.
Pitching on three days' rest for the second straight time, Cooper struck out 10 and carried a one-hitter into the ninth before running into trouble.
South Carolina fans cheered a drawn-out "COOOOOP" as the senior right-hander left after 136 pitches and the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth. Reliever John Taylor finished, but not before the Bruins broke up the shutout when Cody Regis scored on a double-play grounder.
The Gamecocks (53-16) and Bruins (51-16) play Game 2 on Tuesday night.
"Cooper, he maxes out his ability," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "If you play a little defense behind him, he always keeps you there. I thought he was extra special tonight, just because, I don't know if the wind really helped him that much with his sinker, but he got some balls running.
"He ran a couple balls, fastballs that didn't have a lot of velocity that just ran, ran in and out of that zone."
The first hit against Cooper came with one out in the fifth, when No. 9 batter Steve Rodriguez dropped a single down the right-field line. Cooper (13-2) retired the next 11 batters before Regis led off the ninth with a single to right. Cooper walked Marc Navarro and Jeff Gelalich singled to chase the Gamecocks' starter.
"I could tell I wasn't going to have enough giddy-up on my fastball, like Coach Tanner said," Cooper said. "I really wanted to rely on the sink and being able to throw curveballs and sliders and strikes, and I was able to do that early in the count, get some groundballs out and strikeouts when I needed them."
South Carolina collected 11 of their 14 hits and six runs, four earned, in seven innings against UCLA starter Gerrit Cole (11-4). Cole had struck out 13 in eight innings in a win over TCU in his previous start, but he fanned only two Gamecocks.
Cole was victimized by two errors and bad luck.
In the first inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a bunt single. Christian Walker followed with a bloop single before Brady Thomas drove in a run with a check-swing single.
Adrian Morales grounded to second, but Regis lifted his glove too soon and the ball went through his legs, allowing Walker to score for a 2-0 lead.
After Scott Wingo tripled and scored in the second inning, the Gamecocks added two more runs in the third. Walker reached when first baseman Justin Uribe got a late break on an infield nubber that was scored a hit. Morales reached on an error when Cole couldn't come up with his bunt. Haney followed with a two-run single, and his sacrifice fly in the fifth made it 6-0.
"They threw a couple of good punches, and we didn't feel like it was going to steamroll if we put a few quality at-bats together," Rodriguez said. "We figured if we put in a few more quality at-bats we'd be right in the game. And Cooper was on his game tonight, and he didn't allow us to do that."
Cooper had also been solid in two previous CWS appearances. He allowed three runs on six hits and a walk over five innings in a 4-3 loss to Oklahoma. He came back to allow one run on four hits in 5 2-3 innings in a rematch with the Sooners, but got a no-decision in a 3-2, 12-inning victory.