No. 2 Oregon (36-2, 9-2 Pac-12) headed into last weekend with record-setting aspirations – one win away from setting the NCAA record for most consecutive wins to start a season.
Winning the series, the No. 9 UCLA (28-10, 4-5) did not solely spoil the Ducks attempt but defended it since the record belongs to the 1999 Bruins.
“It’s great to defend our title in our house,” said sophomore right fielder Zoe Shaw.
UCLA seized the series’ opener behind redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia’s shutout effort. Garcia capped Game 1 off by retiring the last 11 Ducks, earning her 11th win of the season. The Bruins struck first in the second inning behind Shaw’s RBI single. Junior first baseman Madeline Jelenicki – UCLA’s RBI leader with 38 – finalized the score with a fourth-inning solo home run.
Game 2 was stamped with UCLA’s pitching and defense.
“We won Game 1 and Game 2 because of our defense,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “We were able to execute and give us the opportunity to come up with a timely hit.”
Junior Selina Ta’amilo held Oregon scoreless through six before Garcia finished the shutout through extra innings. On the other side, Maggie Balint assisted in the game’s low scoring affair.
Balint retired 19 consecutive Bruins after Jelenicki’s single in the second inning. A lack of runs extended the game until Shaw’s ninth-inning decisive run on a passed ball. The Bruins only came up with two hits through nine innings.
“We play in a really hard conference so any weekend win is big time,” Jelenicki said. “We just hit a high this weekend getting the first games under our belt against a tough opponent.”
After a total of three runs thus far, Game 3 was an offensive affair. The Ducks blitzed the Bruins with six runs in the third inning – highlighted by a three-run home run. The Bruins responded with a pitching change from Garcia to Ta’amilo; however, the change proved futile against Oregon’s hot bats.
UCLA cut the lead down to 6-2 with three consecutive doubles in the fourth inning. The Ducks padded their lead with a three-run fifth and a two-run home run in the seventh. With three fielding errors, five walks and four HBPs, Oregon’s offense capitalized and avoided the sweep.
“I don’t walk away saying Oregon beat us, I walk away saying we clearly gave them too much,” Inouye-Perez said. “And with a team that is talented as Oregon, you can’t do that, they will absolutely take advantage of it and they did.”
Despite a missed attempt at a series sweep, UCLA hopes to ride the momentum after two consecutive series wins against ranked conference opponents.
“It’s been two good series wins we’ve had in a row,” Jelenicki said. “We’re going to take these wins as a good thing, celebrate them and get on to the next weekend.”
Because of Easter, the Bruins will enter a short week before Thursday’s series opener against Oregon State (19-17, 2-7). UCLA will be traveling to Corvallis, Oregon.