There was nothing else for Ally Carda to do but walk out of the circle. The senior pitcher had just thrown the last pitch of her collegiate career for UCLA softball. The result of the pitch − a walk-off walk to finish the game and the team’s run in the Women’s College World Series.
In a high-scoring affair that went 10 innings, No. 7 seed UCLA was defeated by No. 4 seed Auburn 11-10 on Saturday night. Due to the double-elimination format of the tournament, the loss ended the season for the Bruins (51-12), who had already lost on Friday to the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines.
The matchup got off to an explosive start as UCLA ran out to an early 5-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Auburn (56-10) came charging back in the bottom of the inning, scoring six runs to take the lead.
After the Bruins tied the game 6-6 in the fourth, a three-run home run by outfielder Branndi Melero helped the Tigers reclaim the lead to in the bottom of the inning.
“There was a lot of ups and downs throughout the game,” said freshman first baseman Maddy Jelenicki. “I think what kept us going is more than just wanting to win the game, is wanting to have another game to play with this group of girls − probably one of the tightest group of girls I’ve been on a team with.”
Auburn maintained a 9-7 lead going into the top of the seventh, before sophomore Gabrielle Maurice batted in Carda to bring the game within one. Then, Jelenicki hit a two-run home run to left center to give UCLA the 10-9 lead.
After adding another run in the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers had a runner on third with one out, and appeared to be in a good position to score, until a double-play by UCLA sent the game into extra innings tied 10-10.
“It was a great fight all the way to the end,” Carda said. “I haven’t been in a game like that before, at least with that big of a crowd and that intense of moments.”
The contest remained in a deadlock until Carda walked a batter with the bases loaded in the bottom of tenth, and gave Auburn the game-clinching score.
The final walk was one of 12 on the day for Carda. Fatigue might have been a contributing factor for the unusual lack of command for Carda, as the Bruins’ ace was forced to throw 205 pitches in the game − and a total of 447 over three consecutive days.
“I was mad at myself for not being able to come up with better pitches,” Carda said. “Walking people is not the way to do it in those kind of innings.”
In UCLA’s first Women’s College World Series since 2010, the Bruins finished with a 1-2 record. Overall, the Bruins scored 21 runs in their three world series games this year, and allowed their opponents to score 22.
Despite the exit from the tournament, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said she remains proud of her squad and the type of resilience they showed throughout the season.
“For my team, I’m walking away very proud of a year that was defined by great athletes − versatile, selfless athletes − that played and truly had each other’s backs and never stopped fighting,” Inouye-Perez said. “That’s something that you hope that you can create in a program is to have a culture that so bought into whatever it takes to win − that they will have a lasting memory, this group, together.”
With the season now over, there is nothing left for Carda and the eight other seniors on the team to do but walk away.