Much was made about Cole’s decision to attend UCLA after his selection in the first round of last June’s MLB Draft. Most of the scrutiny came from the New York Yankees, the team that took him with the 28th-overall pick, and their fans after the former AFLAC All-American hurler failed to sign without ever listening to offers.
Instead, the right-hander from Santa Ana, Calif. passed on the millions and decided college was a better option. And if his performance Saturday against UC Davis was any indication, he made the right choice.
Cole hurled six impressive innings, allowing an unearned run and giving up a hit to earn the victory in his collegiate debut. The 6-foot, 4-inch pitcher fanned seven batters – six of which went down swinging. The No. 12 Bruins edged the Aggies by a score of 5-2.
“I was a little nervous but I was pretty fired up and excited,” Cole said. “A lot of the guys were rallying around me before the game. I was ready to go.”
Cole seemed shaky at the start, walking the game’s first batter on high fastballs. But he responded by retiring the next nine batters. Cole didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning – which turned out to be the only one Aggie hitters could muster. After surrendering that first hit, the 18-year-old retired nine of the next 10 hitters he faced.
“I felt good,” he said. “I had command of two pitches and went out there and competed. The offense put some runs on the board and I held (UC Davis).”
Expectations were high before Cole even set foot on campus, and with a strong debut, Bruin fans hope Saturday was just a glimpse of things to come. For now UCLA head coach John Savage has sandwiched Cole, the highest 2008 draft selection to enroll in college, between juniors Gavin Brooks and Charles Brewer in the Bruins’ weekend rotation.
But if Cole continues to dominate like he did Saturday, it won’t be long until he works his way to the front of the pitching staff. Cole is slated to pitch next Saturday against Baylor in the Houston College Classic tournament at Minute Maid Park.
Blair Angulo is currently a junior at UCLA where serves as the Assistant Sports Editor and Baseball beat writer for The Daily Bruin. You can check out his articles on The Daily Bruin site by clicking here.