Redemption was the word for UCLA softball.
Despite heading into the game as the lower seed, No. 7 UCLA (51-10) was able to come away with the 7-1 victory over its Pac-12 foe No. 2 Oregon (51-7) in the opening round of the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
“They made a little history for themselves here,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “First World Series, to be able to get out there and get a ‘W’ in the fashion that they did, playing their game, I was just very proud of them.”
The Bruins exhibited the type of complete game the team has utilized all season long, taking advantage of some key miscues in the sixth inning by the Ducks in order to secure the victory.
With UCLA leading 2-0 in the sixth, junior third baseman Mysha Sataraka hit a pop-fly to right field that looked as if it was sure to be the final out of the inning. Oregon right fielder Alyssa Gillespie dropped the ball after initially catching it in her glove, allowing the Bruins to score two runners and extend their lead to 4-0.
Later in the inning, miscues by the Ducks again aided the Bruins. Although sophomore left fielder Gabrielle Maurice struck out, Oregon catcher Janelle Lindvall was unable to control the pitch, and Maurice safely reached first to extend the inning. Senior second baseman Gracie Goulder and freshman right fielder Kylee Perez would knock in another three runs to put the game out of reach.
“That one inning, that’s something that we do well,” Inouye-Perez said. “When we get going, we can definitely score in bunches. That’s a product of them having quality two-strike, two-out at bats − being able to compete to the last pitch.”
The Bruins opened up the scoring with a solo home run by senior catcher Stephany LaRosa to dead-center in the second inning.
LaRosa has been locked in at the plate as of late − she’s hit a home run in seven of her last eight games − and attributes her hot streak to the team’s new dugout penchant for fruit-friendly puns about “producing runs.”
“When you get to this point in the season, your dugout is a huge part. They’re kind of where your energy comes from,” LaRosa said. “So we kind of take anything and we run with it … being able to buy into lime drives and producing runs, it’s big for the team and it’s definitely contagious.”
Only two batters after LaRosa, Maurice continued the scoring efforts for the Bruins. Swinging on the first pitch by Cheridan Hawkins, Maurice hit a solo home run of her own, and extended the lead to 2-0 for UCLA.
Senior pitcher and two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year Ally Carda was dominant with the ball in her hand all game, allowing only one run to an Oregon squad that has continually proven a difficult matchup for the UCLA ace. Carda entered Thursday’s game versus Oregon with a career ERA of 5.03 in 40.1 innings pitched against the Ducks.
“I think I’ve been taking, we talk about it a lot, one pitch at a time,” Carda said. “We can’t really take any breaks because all these teams are really good teams. They’re great hitters, so once I take one break, that’s where we’re in trouble.”
The best opportunity for Oregon to score came in the fourth inning. After pinch hitter Lauren Lindvall loaded the bases, Sataraka was able to control Gillespie’s line drive and get the force out at third to end the Ducks’ attempt.
This game had added incentives for the Bruins, as the Ducks have been a proverbial thorn in the Bruins’ side, winning 10 out of the last 14 matchups between the teams. The Ducks also won the regular season series this year, 2-1.
“We had some dogfights against them,” Inouye-Perez said. “So we knew today was going to be a great game, but I’m just so proud of my Bruins.”
UCLA will play again Friday night at 6:30 p.m., as the Bruins square off against the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines in the second round.