UCLA and Mississippi softball expected a pitching duel between their starting pitchers Thursday.
It wasn’t until the second game of the series – when neither team relied on its ace – that the close matchup played out.
The No. 5 seed Bruins (46-13,) defeated the No. 12 seed Rebels (43-19) 8-7 in an 11-inning battle Thursday, and 1-0 in a seven-inning pitching duel Friday.
Rather than a clash between redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia and junior Kaitlin Lee – who both have ERAs under 2.00 – the bout took full form between UCLA junior Selina Ta’amilo and Ole Miss sophomore Brittany Finney.
“The turning point of the season is in the pitching staff’s ability to work together,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “They all have each other’s backs.”
Ta’amilo threw the first three innings and didn’t allow a single run.
Even though UCLA’s pitchers have each other’s backs on the mound, Inouye-Perez credits a definite leading spot to Garcia.
Garcia threw 232 pitches in 11 innings Thursday in the win. Twenty-four hours later, she stepped in to throw 50 more pitches in the last four innings and didn’t allow any hits from the opposition.
Garcia said that she had to recover and give her shoulder time to get game ready after her four hour stint Thursday.
“I definitely took an ice bath to get my shoulder game ready,” Garcia said. “I woke up Friday morning feeling better than ever.”
Ole Miss also didn’t rely on its starter in the circle Thursday. Finney took Lee’s place on the mound to pitch all of the seven innings, allowing only one run in the 108 pitches she threw.
“You got to see two teams have a serious dogfight,“ Inouye-Perez said. “Friday’s game could have gone either way because of the amount of pitches that both pitchers put in last night.”
Inouye-Perez said UCLA had to adapt to combat the effectiveness of Ole Miss’ pitching staff.
“It’s a period of adjustment, and that’s why I’m most proud we scored in that first inning – because Finney was effective; it was a little bit of cat and mouse action,” Inouye-Perez said.
This victory punched UCLA’s ticket to Oklahoma City to compete in the NCAA Women’s Softball College World Series, where it will face LSU on Thursday.