The Bruins’ biggest rally came in the sixth inning.
No. 1 UCLA softball (37-2, 11-1 Pac-12) put up a seven-run sixth inning on its way to an 8-1 win over Oregon (17-21, 2-10) to take two out of three in the series.
“We had to fight and earn everything we had,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “I like to see us in those tight situations to see what happens. I got to see who we are in what was – for the most part – a tight game, but I also got to see us do some things we know our players are capable of.”
The score was tied at one-all entering the bottom of the sixth frame.
Redshirt junior pitcher Rachel Garcia stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second and with no outs after junior utility Bubba Nickles and senior third baseman Taylor Pack both found some green with singles to left and center, respectively.
“I was telling (Pack) and coach before I walked out, ‘I’m looking outside and I’m taking everything inside until I get two strikes,’” Garcia said.
She got precisely what she wanted – two pitches and two strikes on the outside corner.
She didn’t swing.
When Garcia did swing, she gave the Bruins the lead, sending a missile to left field for a go-ahead three-run home run – her seventh of the season.
“Of course I take two outside and I was like, ‘All right,’” Garcia said. “Then I was expecting a change-up, but saw that inside pitch and I just got all of it.”
But the Bruins weren’t done yet.
Redshirt sophomore outfielder Aaliyah Jordan kept the rally going with a walk. A shot up the middle from senior catcher Paige Halstead put runners on first and second, and when freshman first baseman Colleen Sullivan got hit by a high-and-tight fastball, the bases were loaded for sophomore infielder Malia Quarles.
In her first at-bat of the game, Quarles gave UCLA some insurance with a towering grand slam that landed deep in the trees when it came out of orbit.
“I just knew I wanted to hit the ball hard and to the outfield because either way someone would score if they tagged up or if I got a base hit,” Quarles said. “I knew I wanted to swing as hard as I could and see what happens.”
In the circle, UCLA went with both Garcia and sophomore pitcher Holly Azevedo.
Azevedo both started and ended the game, pitching in the first three innings before returning for the final three outs. She struck out five and gave up just one hit in her time in the circle.
Garcia inherited runners on first and second when she came in in the top of the fourth inning, but the Bruins were able to get out of the inning after a strikeout and double play. Garcia picked up her 17th win of the season in her three innings of work, striking out four and allowing one unearned run and three hits.
Oregon scored its one run in the fifth inning. The Ducks opened the frame by putting runners on first and second before the Bruins could record an out. Two outs later, a walk loaded the bases and a run came across after a fielder’s choice. UCLA got the ground ball it needed to get out of the inning with just the one run it gave up.
“Even though they were able to get that run on the board, our ability to get out of situations is big,” Inouye-Perez said. “It’s all about the process. The outcome is big, we want to win series, but we gained a lot this weekend and learned a lot about ourselves this weekend.”