After a shaky defensive inning in the top of the first, it appeared as if UCLA softball had the response they needed when freshman third baseman Stephany LaRosa belted one out of the park only to be denied when the ball stayed inches outside the right field foul pole.
LaRosa retreated back to home plate as the crowd buzzed and coach Kelly Inouye-Perez lightly protested the umpire’s foul call. On the very next pitch, UCLA had its response and it was a big one. LaRosa crushed a 3-2 pitch deep to left field clanking off the raised scoreboard for a home run.
The freshman’s two-run homer opened the floodgates for UCLA, who scored the game’s final 14 runs in a five-inning, 14-3 win at home over visiting Michigan State.
“She was going out my entire at bat; out, out and I hit that (first) one (foul) and got a good piece of it so I figured she was coming in,” LaRosa said of her at-bat. “I was prepared looking for it and it was there and I hit it.”
LaRosa’s home run pulled the Bruins to within one, 3-2, in the bottom of the first inning. Two batters later, redshirt senior designated player Samantha Camuso blasted another home run off the left field scoreboard. Sophomore shortstop Kellie Fox followed with a two-run homer two batters after Camuso to stake the Bruins to a 5-3 lead after the first inning.
“That was a big punch and I think that was the turning point for us,” Inouye-Perez said of LaRosa’s first-inning homer. “They got three on the board and the way she was able to come and put us back in the mix kind of sent a message that everyone was ready to hit after that.
“To have a freshman do that, was impressive.”
The No. 17 Bruins (15-6) added six runs in the second and three in the third, finishing the night with five home runs total. Michigan State (5-13) opened the game with three runs after a shaky start defensively for the Bruins with an error and a wild pitch aiding the Spartans offensively.
“For Steph to come up and throw that punch, that’s the sign of a championship team,” Inouye-Perez said of LaRosa’s two-run shot. “They punched right back and that’s what I was most proud of in the entire game … their ability to punch right back there in that bottom half.”
UCLA was excited to play at home for the first time since hosting the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament to open the season.
“It’s fun to come home, fun to play in front of our family and friends and to have literally a slugfest like tonight that makes it always a little bit more enjoyable for us,” Inouye-Perez said of the team.
Junior B.B. Bates’ solo homer put the Bruins up 12-3 in the bottom of the third inning. Fox followed three batters later with a two-run homer, her second of the night, to close the scoring for the game. Fox finished 2-for-2 with five runs batted in while Camuso went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs for the Bruins.
“This team can hit, but this kind of performance we haven’t even had- to be able to hit the long ball like that- and I think a big part of it is being at home and being in front of our fans,” Inouye-Perez said.
“They showed up and they were ready to play.”
Including Wednesday’s win, UCLA has won four of its last five games.
The team will need its rest however, as it is slated for a hectic upcoming weekend, which starts on Friday when UCLA plays Eastern Kentucky in the opening game of the Long Beach State Invitational.
The Bruins will play five games total over the weekend tournament, held in Lakewood, Calif.
The team will then travel north to play at UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly.