UCLA softball was down to its final out twice: once in the seventh and once in the 10th.
The Bruins found a way to tie the game both times.
In the 11th inning, they found a way to win.
“What I was proud about was the way our team came out, fought, got punched, punched back, never gave up and just won a ballgame a whole new way we’ve never won this whole season,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
Junior first baseman Madeline Jelenicki slapped a change-up through the right side to score sophomore right fielder Zoe Shaw, giving No. 5-seeded UCLA softball a walk-off 8-7 victory in game one of the NCAA super regional against No. 12-seeded Ole Miss.
UCLA first battled to tie the game in the seventh inning, entering what could have been the final frame down 5-4.
Delaney Spaulding singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a ground out. With two outs, the senior shortstop slid into home to score on another wild pitch, tying the game at five.
“(Assistant) coach Kirk (Walker) was in my ear the entire time, ‘She’s gonna let one go, she’s gonna let one go, you have to be ready,’” Spaulding said. “Sure enough, she threw one in the dirt, got past the catcher just enough and I came in hard, so we were fortunate enough to get that break.”
The Bruins found themselves down two runs in the bottom of the 10th, but freshman center fielder Bubba Nickles erased that deficit with a two-out, two-run double into right field.
Redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia was throwing a no-hitter, as she did in the first game of last week’s regional, until the top of the sixth when Ole Miss answered back, scoring five.
The Rebels started their scoring with a two-run homer to left center to cut the Bruins’ lead in half. Another run scored on a wild pitch, before a two-RBI single pushed the score to 5-4 in favor of Ole Miss.
Garcia ended the game with 11 innings pitched, 232 pitches, 12 strikeouts and seven runs allowed – six earned. In the post-game press conference, Inouye-Perez did not say whether Garcia would be available tomorrow.
“All hands on deck, right?” Inouye-Perez said. “We’re here, our plan is to do whatever it takes to win.”
The Bruins opened up scoring with a homer by Garcia to center field in the bottom of the second.
In the bottom of the third, sophomore Brianna Tautalafua singled to first base on a bunt, loading the bases. Junior Madeline Jelenicki popped out to center, allowing Spaulding to run home.
Senior Gabrielle Maurice drove a single up the middle to score junior Kylee Perez and move Tautalafua to third. Maurice then stole second and Tautalafua scored an unearned score on a throwing error, giving UCLA a 4-0 lead, long before the game went into extra innings.
“We wanted to get runs across the board, that way Rachel can get some rest,” Spaulding said. “We wanted to end that game sooner than what happened, but the bigger picture is we all rallied together.”
Inouye-Perez said that winning the first game of the series was huge.
“Any time you get into a three-game series (and lose) game one, it’s very difficult,” Inouye-Perez said. “You put your back up against the wall and you feel like you have to win two. … It gives us a great opportunity to go out tomorrow and go for it.”
The Bruins and the Rebels will head back to Easton Stadium on Friday in the second game of the three-game series. If the Rebels lose, they will be out of the tournament and UCLA will advance to the Women’s College World Series.