Wednesday, April 24

Softball holds onto win after Titan comeback

Just when it seemed like No. 3 UCLA was well on its way to another mercy-rule win, Cal State Fullerton came storming back.

Down by seven runs heading into the top of the seventh inning, the Titans mustered a grand slam with two outs and threatened to score again with a follow-up double by Kadie Baldwin.

But the Bruins finally got the last out on Baldwin’s attempt to take home on an error and put an end to a game uncharacteristic of UCLA softball.

It was not pretty, but the Bruins (11-1) squeezed out a 9-6 victory over the Titans (2-9) Wednesday at a restless Easton Stadium, their ninth consecutive win.

For the Bruins, the outcome was an unusual affair, as eight of the first 11 games of the season have been won by a margin of at least eight runs in just five or six innings.

But mercy rule or not, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said what took place on the field was just another lesson in a season-long learning process.

“It’s a great thing that we were able to get away with the win because (Cal State Fullerton) battled back,” she said. “But in the same breath, we gained great experience as a club to be able to be in certain situations that you don’t always get to practice. We’re in a grind … so for us to have a game with action like that is actually a great thing for us.”

The Titans’ late comeback attempt was in fact just one of three occasions on which the opponents went on the offensive.

Fullerton took an early 1-0 lead in the first after pinch-runner Chloe Valenzuela came home on a double steal.

UCLA responded in the bottom half of the inning with two runs of its own, thanks to a two-out double by senior third baseman Julie Burney. The Bruins then appeared to break the game open with a four-run second inning, triggered by a three-run home run from B.B. Bates.

The freshman right fielder would end the day going two-for-three with three runs batted in and two walks.

“I know that I have to work for these games,” Bates said. “So I just believe that when I go up to the plate, I’m going to succeed because of the work I put in.”

Despite Bates’ first home run of her collegiate career, it wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Bruins got on the scoreboard again. What kept UCLA’s offensive surge in check was a pitching change from opposing team.

Junior Ari Cervantes took over in the circle in the third and pitched the remainder of the game, thwarting the Bruins’ attempt to invoke the mercy rule on multiple occasions with her off-speed pitch.

“The main thing that we talk about when a pitcher has an off-speed pitch is to see the ball later and hit it to the right side,” Burney said. “We tried to be late on the (fastball) so that we would be on time for the slow pitch.”

UCLA went on to score three more runs in the fifth and sixth innings, enough of an insurance to absorb a Titan run in the sixth and grand slam in the seventh to still hold on for the win.

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