The ball grazed the glove of UCLA freshman outfielder Allexis Bennett as it passed over the center field wall. In a moment, the feeling throughout Easton Stadium, which had been rocking all weekend, turned from exaltation to exasperation on Sunday.
It was a fitting end to the Bruins’ roller coaster Pac-12 series against the Ducks, as UCLA (32-17, 8-13 Pac-12) came up just short multiple times in losing two of three to Oregon (40-7, 15-3). The Ducks came from behind late in each of their two wins to take the series, including a three-run homer to cap a four-run inning Sunday, giving them a 7-5 lead that would not change.
In many ways the rubber match was a repeat of Friday’s game. Junior pitcher Jessica Hall lasted all of 19 pitches before being relieved by sophomore Ally Carda. The Bruins responded by scoring in each of the next three innings, including a four-run second.
The lead would hold until the top of the sixth, when the potent Oregon offense erupted for five runs and took the game 9-6.
Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez was ejected in the second inning Friday for calling two offensive timeouts in the inning, her first-ever ejection. Without her, the Bruin defense struggled.
“We started off playing, as coach likes to say ‘mentally loose but physically tight’ and I think we were just the opposite (in the rest of the game),” said sophomore shortstop Stephany LaRosa. “Once they started getting hits, we kind of tightened up and we weren’t as loose.”
The Bruins rebounded in game two, once again jumping out to a big early lead, winning 7-5. The Bruins hit three home runs in the third, including back-to-back homers by freshman third baseman Mysha Sataraka and Hall.
Sataraka also delivered a game-winning defensive play in the top of the seventh.
“It was a nice stop by Steph to stop the run (from second) from scoring,” Sataraka said. “(Second baseman) Gracie (Goulder) had a beautiful throw right to me, and I just tried to tag her as fast as I could and we got her.”
Game three was not without controversy, however. After having already scored twice in the fifth inning to retake the lead 5-3, UCLA was in position to extend its lead. Trying to score from second on a single, senior outfield B.B. Bates was blocked by Oregon catcher Janelle Lindvall and tagged out at home. Inouye-Perez held a long discussion with the umpires disputing the call, to no avail.
UCLA will protest the call, but will not speak on the subject until an official decision is made later this week.
Assistant coach Lisa Fernandez is confident in the Bruins’ ability to bounce back from a tough weekend.
“What makes it most frustrating is that we know what we are capable of and we lost two games that we were in,” Fernandez said of her team. “(But) they are very resilient, they keep coming back. They’ve faltered defensively, they’ve faltered at the mound, but they’re not phased. The fight is there.”