Monday, October 23

UCLA softball out-pitches North Carolina for the win

UCLA junior pitcher Donna Kerr fanned the first batter she faced to open the game against North Carolina. And much to the delight of the home crowd, she was far from done.

With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the seventh inning, Kerr ended the game in the same manner that she started it, notching her eighth strikeout of the day to lead the No. 6 Bruins (17-4) to a 1-0 win over the No. 18 Tar Heels (16-4).

It was a typical pitcher’s duel from the outset. Coming into the game with a 0.81 earned run average, North Carolina’s left-handed Danielle Spaulding matched Kerr pitch for pitch. But Kerr’s competitive instincts kicked in, and the Bruin pitcher outlasted her North Carolina counterpart to pick up her eighth win of the season.

“Our goal is always to stop the opposing team however long it takes until we’re able to come up with some timely hitting, and that’s exactly what we saw,” coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “In the beginning, we were trying to figure out the umpire’s strike zone, but Donna maintained her composure and had a great presence. It was a very impressive outing.”

Through one and a half innings, the game remained scoreless, and after Spaulding struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the second, it seemed as if the drought would continue. But up came Julie Burney to the plate, and after working a full count, the senior third baseman launched a solo shot to right field, her sixth home run of the season.

“Our approach was to see the pitches down because (Spaulding) is known to be effective on her riseballs,” Burney said. “There were a couple of riseballs that I swung at and got pieces of, and on the 3-2 count, I figured she was going to have to throw at me. That last pitch was a good screwball, but I just saw it late and hit it.”

The solo home run by Burney turned out to make all the difference, as Kerr took care of the rest. She tossed seven complete innings while giving up just one hit and a walk to snap the Tar Heels’ 15-game winning streak.

“My inside pitches were strong, and I got the outside corners, so I was able to throw the batters off a little bit,” Kerr said. “I try to stay within my own game, but seeing another pitcher go right at batters definitely pumps you up.”

With final exams around the corner, the Bruins are off next week but return on March 21 with a doubleheader at CSU Bakersfield.

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