UCLA softball defeats Washington, emerges with undefeated pitching record intact
For her second-straight start, No. 2 UCLA softball redshirt senior pitcher Rachel Garcia hurled a complete game, going seven innings without giving up an earned run while striking out six in the Bruins’ win. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 4 Washington||1|
|No. 2 UCLA||6|
April 24, 2021 1:51 p.m.
In a battle between two undefeated pitchers, Rachel Garcia came out unscathed.
The redshirt senior pitcher/first baseman allowed just three hits and one unearned run in a complete-game performance to help No. 2 UCLA softball (26-2, 9-1 Pac-12) defeat No. 4 Washington (34-7, 12-3) 6-1 on Friday night. The Bruins knocked opposing pitcher Gabbie Plain – who was 23-0 coming into the game – out of the game after just three innings, ultimately scoring four runs off of the senior and handing her the first loss of her season.
Despite the pitching matchup, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said the team’s history against Washington played a large role in motivating her players.
“It’s more the jersey in the other dugout (that) can kind of get you fired up,” Inouye-Perez said. “The excitement and the anticipation knowing this is a team we go head-to-head with not only in conference, but we have a history with them in postseason – there’s no need for motivation on a weekend like this.”
Both unbeaten pitchers held their opposing batters hitless through the first two innings, but a one-out single from redshirt sophomore utility Anna Vines and a two-out walk from redshirt junior infielder Kinsley Washington gave UCLA its first RBI chance of the game.
It only took one pitch for Briana Perez to take advantage, as the redshirt junior infielder hit a first-pitch three-run home run to score three runs off Plain – more than Plain gave up in her previous 23.1 innings pitched over a four-game span.
Perez said swinging early was part of the game plan coming in.
“Before the game we had talked about just not letting her get ahead and staying aggressive,” Perez said. “When (Plain) gets ahead, she’s going to throw her pitches so definitely just be aggressive and then of course my teammates for being on base and allowing me to be in that position in the first place.”
The Huskies did respond in the next frame, ending Garcia’s perfect-game bid with two singles before a throwing error gave the Huskies their only run of the contest in the fourth inning.
After the unearned run, Garcia – who came into the game 7-0 with the nation’s third-best ERA at 0.47 – didn’t allow a baserunner until the seventh inning. The reigning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week credited the early runs from her offense for giving her confidence the rest of the way.
“As a pitcher, I absolutely love the insurance that my team gives me but being able to get on top of it early makes it even better and not as stressful as a pitcher,” Garcia said. “Being able to pass the bat was super important and (Perez) coming in clutch in that home run with (runners) on too, that’s such a great job on her part.”
After two early base runners forced a pitching change from Washington in the bottom of the fourth, the UCLA offense continued to give the team’s ace more run support.
A sacrifice fly from redshirt freshman catcher/first baseman Alyssa Garcia made the score 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth before the Bruins added two more in the bottom of the sixth. Redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan led off the inning with a solo home run before Alyssa Garcia knocked in Rachel Garcia to extend the lead to 6-1.
All six of UCLA’s runs came on swings within the first three pitches of the at-bat, something Inouye-Perez said follows the team’s approach for series openers.
“We kind of have a little philosophy and day one is, ‘Go for it,’” Inouye-Perez said. “We want to be aggressive on day one and they did a great job of that. We call it aggressively smart.”
The Bruins resume their series against the Huskies on Saturday at 4 p.m. from Easton Stadium.