Coming into this weekend’s series at Easton Stadium, Arizona softball was third in the country with a combined ERA of 1.23.
Coming out of the series, it’s now a bit higher.
No. 12 UCLA softball (39-13, 13-8) scored a total of 16 runs in three games, powering itself to a series win over the top team in the conference.
The No. 12 Bruins (39-13, 13-8 Pac-12) defeated the No. 3 Wildcats (48-7, 18-6) in an 8-0 mercy rule shutout Friday, then followed it up with a 6-0 victory Saturday before falling Sunday afternoon by a score of 7-2.
In Friday’s game, sophomore third baseman Brianna Tautalafua’s two-run double to right center stretched the lead from one run to three in the bottom half of the third.
The Bruins continued to build on the lead with another run in each of the fourth and fifth innings. In the bottom of the fifth, with the score at 5-0, freshman outfielder Bubba Nickles launched a laser over the fence in left center for a three-run home run, propelling the Bruins to the walk-off mercy rule win.
Much of this offense came against Arizona starter Danielle O’Toole, who had a 0.95 ERA coming into the weekend.
UCLA assistant coach Lisa Fernandez credited the Bruins’ success against O’Toole to their approach at the plate.
“O’Toole’s an incredible pitcher, and I think they did a great job with pitch selection, and being able to stick to their approach,” Fernandez said. “I think that’s part of it, is being able to make sure you swing at good pitches.”
Starting redshirt freshman pitcher Rachel Garcia supported the Bruins’ hitters with an, albeit shortened, two-hit complete game shutout, improving her record on the year to 16-7.
It was more of the same the next day for UCLA, as the Bruins quickly got on the board with a three-run home run from junior first baseman Madeline Jelenicki in the bottom of the first. Junior second baseman Kylee Perez contributed a two-run double in the fifth to stretch the lead to 5-0, and eventually scored on a Jelenicki sacrifice fly to left field.
The pitching was handled by junior starter Selina Ta’amilo, who earned the victory with 4 1/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball, pushing her record to 13-0. Garcia finished the game off with 2 2/3 innings, surrendering only two hits to earn her third save of the year.
O’Toole returned to the circle Sunday for the Wildcats, but before she delivered a single pitch, her team jumped out to a 4-0 lead via a grand slam from Jessie Harper. Arizona extended its lead to 7-0 by the fourth.
The Bruins’ offense was stagnant in response, as O’Toole returned to form, throwing a complete game and earning the win, her 27th of the year.
Fernandez said the series win gives the Bruins confidence heading into their final series next weekend against the Arizona State Sun Devils as well as the postseason.
“When you face an opponent that’s ranked nationally as high as Arizona is, it gives you great confidence,” Fernandez said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about the opponent you play, but it’s how you go about playing the game, and (we) went about playing the game the right way this weekend, and (we) got great payback for it.”