The Bruins needed to reignite their offense, and that starts at the top of the order.
In the first inning, junior second baseman Kylee Perez drew first blood, whacking a deep one to center field.
That home run sent No. 5-seeded UCLA softball on its way to an 8-2 victory against No. 9-seeded Texas A&M, saving the Bruins from elimination.
“I think that we’re always trying to do our best to get the ball rolling right from the bat,” Perez said. “And D (senior shortstop Delaney Spaulding) does a great job of getting us going, and I know if D doesn’t, then it’s my turn to step up.”
The Bruins came into Oklahoma City ranking third in home runs per game with 1.27. On Thursday, the LSU Tigers held them to one run and zero deep shots.
“For Kylee Perez to be able to show great leadership … and throw that first punch and be able to get on the board, it kind of set the tone that we’re here to play,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
UCLA continued its scoring into the second inning. Spaulding punched a two-RBI single into right field, extending the lead to 3-0.
On the other side, the Bruin defense and redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia kept the Aggies scoreless into the fourth inning. Garcia, owner of more than 200 strikeouts on the season, had two strikeouts and allowed only one run in six innings pitched.
“I think just working in those off speeds just to keep them off balance, keep them on their toes,” Garcia said.
Perez claimed the second out in the fourth with a highlight catch, laying out for a line drive. Garcia was one strike away from her fourth straight scoreless inning. Then, Riley Sartain broke the spell by ripping a long shot into center field, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
In the sixth inning, the Bruins’ senior left fielder Gabrielle Maurice attempted to extend the lead by stealing home. Maurice was called out in the dangerous-looking play, leading to assistant coach Lisa Fernandez arguing for obstruction of the plate and being ejected.
“I’m going to be honest with you; that’s a first,” Inouye-Perez said. “I’m glad that it only got to be an ejection.”
The score remained 3-1 heading into the final inning until the Bruins reignited the scoring affair with a five-run blitz.
Spaulding and sophomore third baseman Brianna Tautalafua contributed a pair of RBI doubles. In addition, Perez connected for an RBI single down the middle. Finally, Garcia wrapped up the scoring with a two-run homer into left field.
Down 8-1, the Aggies were only able to muster up one run in the bottom of the seventh and are the first school to be sent home from Oklahoma City.
“We just put ourselves in a position to be able to get after the next game,” Inouye-Perez said.
The Bruins play again Saturday at 4 p.m. against the No. 6-seeded Washington Huskies. As an elimination game, UCLA must win to survive another game.