OMAHA, Neb. -- Despite having been UCLA's season-long No. 2 starter before Saturday night, Trevor Bauer looked every bit a No. 1 when given the ball for the Bruins' College World Series opener.
John Savage played a hunch by going with Bauer over Gerrit Cole, and the UCLA coach looked smart after the game.
The sophomore right-hander struck out 11 in a strong seven innings and set the UCLA season record, and the Bruins cranked up their offense to beat Florida 11-3 for the program's first win in Omaha.
"It was a tough decision," Savage said. "Gerrit has started [first] all season long. That's one thing we've been very consistent with, and we kind of know our roles.
"We just kind of went with the matchup. It could have backfired, but we know we have a bunch of No. 1s. Trevor upheld his end of the deal, and now we're moving on."
The Bruins (49-14), who went two-and-out in each of their only two previous Omaha appearances, will play first-time CWS qualifier TCU in a Bracket 1 winners' game on Monday night.
Florida (47-16), the No. 3 national seed, meets Florida State in a Monday afternoon elimination game.
"We just could not get into the flow of the game," Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It seemed like a really slow-paced game, agonizing at times to watch."
The sixth-seeded Bruins, who relied mostly on pitching and defense to set a school record for wins, scored in all but one inning and banged out 18 hits. Niko Gallego went 4 for 5 and Beau Amaral 3 for 4.
They also took advantage of Florida's pitching problems. Gators starter Andy Panteliodis and four others combined to hit four batters and throw four wild pitches, two of which resulted in UCLA runs. The Bruins also scored on a passed ball and an error.
Bauer (11-3) set the UCLA strikeout record in his last inning when he caught Jonathan Pigot looking at strike three. Bauer struck out Preston Tucker to end the seventh, giving him 11 for the game and 152 for the season. The sophomore from Valencia, Calif., has struck out 10 or more in seven of his 17 starts.
Bauer, who allowed six hits before Erik Goeddel relieved him in the eighth, said getting the ball in the CWS opener presented a mental challenge.
"It's definitely tougher leading off, with first-game jitters and obviously playing in such a great venue here," Bauer said. "For me, it was more of just another game, try to execute pitches and go one at a time and let the results be what they were."
As he has a number of times, Bauer struggled early with his command. He was tagged for two runs on two singles and a walk in the first inning, and the Gators had two runners on base in the second before Bauer struck out Matt den Dekker.
Bauer said he made a minor mechanical change after the second inning.
"It was a little tough, battling out there and going against such a good offense," Bauer said. "I settled in and started pitching off the fastball."
Savage was content to bide his time with Bauer.
"His stuff always shows up," he said. "If he can limit the damage early, he's as good as advertised, and I thought his stuff was very good. He's a strikeout pitcher."
The Bruins used a three-run third inning to take a 4-2 lead against Panteliodis. Gallego came home to tie it 2-all when Blair Dunlap's grounder went through third baseman Austin Maddox's legs, and Amaral scored the go-ahead run on Panteliodis' wild pitch.
Cody Regis' up-the-middle single made it a two-run game, and the Bruins went ahead 5-2 in the fourth after Steve Rodriguez scored on catcher Mike Zunino's passed ball.
Panteliodis (11-3) lasted just 3 1/3 innings. In his previous outing, Panteliodis had his first complete game and struck out 12 in a 7-2 super regional win over Miami.
Rodriguez hit a two-run single in the fifth off Florida reliever Jeff Barfield and Dean Espy scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to make it 8-3.
For all their struggles, the Gators turned in the defensive play of the day. That went to den Dekker, who chased Brett Krill's deep fly to center in the top of the fourth. Den Dekker was looking over his right shoulder, running directly at the wall, as the ball dropped over his head and into his right glove as he slid on his knees on the warning track.
"Fly ball, and I ran it down," den Dekker said.
O'Sullivan said den Dekker was being too humble.
"That was the best catch I've ever seen," the coach said.