Ali Aguilar stepped to the plate to lead off the sixth inning for the Washington Huskies. The game was scoreless.
Moments later, a softball off Aguilar’s bat landed 273 feet away from home plate, giving Washington a 1-0 advantage over UCLA.
The No. 5-seeded Bruins could not answer back, and their season ended Saturday night in Oklahoma City at the mercy of the No. 6-seeded Huskies.
The Bruins were held to just two hits in the game by Husky starting pitcher Taran Alvelo. They finished their run in the 2017 Women’s College World Series with a total record of 1-2.
UCLA played without assistant coach Lisa Fernandez, who was ejected from the Bruins’ Saturday afternoon game against Texas A&M. Fernandez was suspended for two games after bumping an umpire while arguing an obstruction call.
Redshirt freshman pitcher Rachel Garcia started the game for the Bruins, and matched zeroes with Alvelo through five innings.
“I’m very proud of (Garcia),” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “She carried a lot to be able to get this program back, back to this World Series.”
Garcia said that improving her pitches over the season helped her support her team.
“I think I gained a lot more spin on the ball and speed,” Garcia said. “I was throwing hard before, but I just think I picked up more movement coming into this year and getting back.”
UCLA threatened to score in the fourth after junior second baseman Kylee Perez singled, advanced to second on a bunt and advanced to third on a wild pitch. However, junior first baseman Madeline Jelinicki struck out looking for the second out of the inning. Senior left fielder Gabrielle Maurice then lined out to third to end the inning after Washington intentionally walked Garcia.
Then came Aguilar’s shot.
“I’m glad Ali Aguilar is graduating because she is a phenomenal hitter,” said head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “But it came down to just one pitch, and I believe we definitely could have figured out a way to make an adjustment a little sooner.”
Neither team advanced a runner past first after Aguilar’s home run.
UCLA finished its season with a total record of 48-15.
Inouye-Perez said the team’s midseason turnaround helped the Bruins return to their third straight College World Series.
“In the middle of the season I don’t know if we truly believed we would get back here, but this team continued to fight behind a pretty powerful freshman (Garcia), and the future is exciting,” Inouye-Perez said.