Going into Saturday night’s game against Oregon, UCLA softball was the last undefeated team in the nation.
No. 1 Washington (29-1, 1-1 Pac-12) lost to No. 9 Arizona State (23-4, 1-1) earlier Saturday, and by the end of the Bruins’ game against the Ducks, there were no more undefeated teams left.
The No. 3 Bruins (25-2, 1-2) lost their last two games against the No. 6 Ducks (24-5, 1-1) to drop their first Pac-12 series of the season.
“Coming into this series, we already knew that it was going to be a tough one,” said junior infielder Brianna Tautalafua. “Oregon always gives us a run for our money and this weekend they definitely came out to play.”
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Rachel Garcia took the ball for Friday’s opener.
Garcia lasted the full seven innings, only giving up two runs and three hits while piling up 16 strikeouts. And with that, she collected her 11th win of the season.
Six different Bruins found holes in the Ducks’ defense for nine hits. Senior infielder Kylee Perez had the most with three and junior catcher Taylor Pack had two. Three of those players also left the yard. Tautalafua opened up the offense with a two-run home run in the fourth inning, her sixth of the year. Redshirt freshman infielder Aaliyah Jordan and Garcia were the other two to hit home runs.
Oregon was able to crack the scoreboard in the final frame with a home run from infielder Lauren Lindvall and an RBI single by outfielder Alexis Mack before UCLA got the final three outs to take game one 6-2.
The Bruins arrived on Saturday tied for their fifth-best start to a season ever – and their best since 2004 – at 25-0, but their record would stay put.
Senior pitcher Selina Ta’amilo started inside the circle and the Ducks got to her early, scoring two runs in the first frame and another in the second. Ta’amilo pitched the two innings and then re-entered for the final inning, lasting three total, and allowed three earned runs, six hits and two walks on the night. In between Ta’amilo’s appearances, freshman pitcher Holly Azevedo took the circle for three innings and gave up three runs, three hits and four walks.
After five innings, Oregon had a seven-run lead on UCLA, who had yet to cross home plate.
Garcia got the Bruins on the board in the sixth with a two-run home run to pull within five. In the seventh, Jordan launched a three-run shot after having two strikes in the at-bat to make it a two-run game. Ducks pitcher Miranda Elish, who pitched the full seven innings and struck out nine, retired Garcia for the final out to take game two 7-5.
“At the end of the day, on Saturday we did not pitch well and there were miscues on defense that cost us,” coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “I wouldn’t say that Oregon beat us Saturday – we definitely beat ourselves.”
Sunday’s rubber match was for the fans who appreciate pitching and defense.
For Oregon, pitcher Megan Kleist tossed a complete game shutout with six strikeouts and six hits allowed.
Garcia stepped inside the circle with about 43 hours of rest for the third and final game of the series after her complete game on Friday.
“After Friday I felt really good,” Garcia said. “(Saturday) I was a little sore but did what I needed to do. (Sunday) morning I felt pretty good again and did my same routine before the game.”
She lasted the full game again with seven strikeouts and pitched a shutout until the final inning.
With runners on second and third, and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Oregon outfielder Shannon Rhodes sent one over the center field wall for a three-run walk-off home run to win the game 3-0 and take the series over UCLA.
This is just the beginning of Pac-12 play and Inouye-Perez is looking forward to every opportunity from now to the end of the regular season.
“We know one thing: The Pac-12 is loaded and anything can happen,” Inouye-Perez said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to prepare to be our best at the end, and I believe that the Pac is going to represent well in the end.”