It took an extra game, but the Bruins secured a spot in the super regional.
No. 2 seed UCLA softball (49-6, 20-4 Pac-12) dropped game one against Missouri (35-25, 12-12 SEC) 5-1 on Sunday to set up the championship elimination game of the Los Angeles regional, where the Bruins run-ruled the Tigers 13-1.
“We haven’t had much adversity all year and the fact that we’re having adversity at this time of the season could be one of two things – panic or fight back,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “We’re going to supers and I’m proud of this entire team to be able to punch back and put themselves in a position to move on.”
In the first game, freshman pitcher Megan Faraimo got the start but was taken out after facing only two batters. A lead-off single and a double put runners on second and third, which was enough to turn the ball over to redshirt junior pitcher Rachel Garcia.
“The plan was to have (Garcia) pitch in short relief and I gave (Faraimo) the ball to have her bounce back from the game before,” Inouye-Perez said. “It’s hard because (Faraimo) is a big reason why we’re here and so is (sophomore pitcher Holly Azevedo). We’re going to need our staff to trust each other and continue to work hard and you’re definitely going to see each of them be the best versions of themselves.”
After the change, Missouri scored twice on a passed ball and a sacrifice bunt for the early 2-0 lead.
UCLA got its first run of the game when senior first baseman Taylor Pack picked up an RBI single in the fifth inning.
The Tigers, however, responded and expanded their lead with an RBI double in the fifth inning and a two-run home run in the sixth for the 5-1 win.
With a spot in the super regional on the line, the bats came alive for the Bruins, as they scored in each inning in game two Sunday.
UCLA jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Junior utility Bubba Nickles led it off with a double to center and then came around to score after a sacrifice bunt from sophomore shortstop Briana Perez and a Missouri fielding error. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Aaliyah Jordan drove a double to the wall in left center for an RBI and Garcia’s blooper to right stayed fair for Jordan to score.
“When we press, that’s when we play our best ball,” Nickles said. “When we came into the second game, we came out with a much better mindset and we were very clear with what we had to do.”
Nickles went up to the plate with the bases loaded with two outs in the third inning. With the count full, she drove everyone home on a double to left center.
“For me, it was definitely about letting the ball get to me and be more patient,” Nickles said. “They were trying to throw me a lot of offspeed and trying to get me off balanced. Could’ve done a better job of doing that in the first game, but we all did a better job of doing that in the second game.”
Nickles and the Bruins were not done producing runs, with the bases loaded again in the fourth inning. This time, Pack walked to score a run and then Nickles and sophomore utility Kinsley Washington each had two-run singles to make it 13-1.
Garcia grabbed her 23rd win of the season in five innings of work, collecting four strikeouts. In total, she pitched 20 2/3 innings in the Los Angeles regional on 302 pitches thrown.
“I’m in the training room from when it opens to when it closes, I practically live there,” Garcia said. “Besides that, I look to my teammates to pump me up and we play for each other.”
UCLA will host the super regional this weekend and waits for the winner of the game between Michigan and James Madison on Monday.