Saturday, October 21

UCLA softball battles back to take series over Arizona

Senior catcher Kaila Shull went 2-4 at the plate, contributing to Saturday's 6-4 win over No. 3 Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.

Senior catcher Kaila Shull went 2-4 at the plate, contributing to Saturday's 6-4 win over No. 3 Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. Sarah Michelle Lahti

Softball coach Kelly Inouye-Perez loves her team’s perseverance.

“It’s just about opportunities,” Inouye-Perez said. “And they’re doing a great job of fighting from the first inning through the seventh.”

The No. 5 Bruins (40-11, 14-7 Pac-10) fought back after an Wildcat walk-off victory Friday to beat No. 3 Arizona (43-11, 13-8) 6-4 Saturday in the final regular season game for both teams. The Bruins also kicked off the series with a 6-5 extra-inning win Thursday.

The Wildcats scored early Saturday, with two runs in the bottom of the first inning off junior Donna Kerr, who was replaced by senior Megan Langenfeld in the bottom of the second. Langenfeld struck out three, and gave up five hits and two walks in five and two-thirds innings, improving her record to 10-1.

In the top of the fourth, the Bruins took control of the game. With two outs, junior second baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore singled, and drove in two runs. DiSalvatore advanced to third and freshman right fielder B.B. Bates scored off an error, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead.

“The bases were loaded, and I knew sooner or later she was going to have to pitch to me because she wasn’t going to walk me,” DiSalvatore said. “So I just made sure I was really patient and I waited for a good pitch.”

In the sixth, the Bruins added to their lead. Freshman Charlotte Dolan hit an RBI single, and Langenfeld drove in two more runs with a double to put the Bruins up 6-2. Senior Kaila Shull said that her teammates’ confidence in each other helps them put runs on the board.

“It’s a powerful belief knowing when you go up to the plate that, you know, if you don’t get it done, your team’s going to have your back and the next person’s ready to go,” Shull said.

The Wildcats also had a two-run sixth inning, with both runs coming off a home run by junior left fielder Brittany Lastrapes. DiSalvatore said the home run didn’t alarm her team.

“We were still ahead by two runs, and it cleared the bases so there was nobody on base with one out,” DiSalvatore said. “We have all the confidence in the world in our pitchers … and we knew she was going to come back and get the next batter and finish the inning.”

After getting out of the sixth without allowing any more base runners, Langenfeld went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.

Less than a week after Bates hit a walk-off home run against Cal, the Bruins found themselves on the other side of a game-ending blast. The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the fifth with a bases-clearing double off junior Whitney Baker.

In the bottom of the seventh, sophomore second baseman Kristen Arriola’s two-run home run ended Kerr’s 10-strikeout night with a loss.

Thursday, the Bruins had a commanding 5-0 lead going into the sixth, but the Wildcats came back to tie the game in the last two innings. Senior third baseman Julie Burney hit her 15th home run of the season in the eighth, giving the Bruins a 6-5 victory.

“I’m excited,” said Inouye-Perez of the postseason. “We’ve learned a lot about ourselves. … We’ve learned to respect the game. We’ve learned that anybody in the lineup can be the one. We’ve learned how to compete one through seven, coming from behind, and also maintaining a lead. The bottom line: you just keep on competing.”

The Bruins will head into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 seed, announced on ESPNU Sunday evening. They will be one of 16 teams to host regional play. Should the team advance past the first round, UCLA will also host the super regional.

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