UCLA softball tops Fresno State in 2nd day of NCAA regional tournament
Redshirt senior pitcher Rachel Garcia pitched a complete eight innings and struck out 13 as the winning pitcher for No. 2 seed UCLA softball. As a hitter, Garcia was on base four times and drove in the tying run in the seventh inning. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 2 seed UCLA||5|
By Cassidy Hunt
May 22, 2021 5:38 p.m.
Despite an eventful beginning, a late-game rally decided the contest for the Bruins.
No. 2 seed UCLA softball (43-4, 19-2 Pac-12) secured a place in the final game of its NCAA regional on Saturday afternoon with a 5-4 victory over Fresno State (37-11, 20-4 Mountain West). The Bruins forced an extra inning with a seventh frame-tying run before drawing four in the eighth to secure their place in the final game of the regional tournament.
“We figured out how to manufacture the runs late in the game,” said redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan. “We always had the hits. We get them on, get them over and we needed to get them in.”
The scoring started in the bottom of the fifth inning when a Bulldog was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a sacrifice grounder. An Avery Lawley double down the left-field line that redshirt sophomore outfielder Kelli Godin could not stop secured the initial lead for the Bulldogs.
The Bruins did not respond until the seventh inning when a leadoff single by Jordan and a subsequent sacrifice bunt by redshirt junior infielder Briana Perez put a runner in scoring position as redshirt senior pitcher Rachel Garcia approached the dish. The Olympian’s single to the right-field wall tied the match at one before a pair of fly outs ended UCLA’s half of the inning.
“The hits were always bound to happen,” Garcia said. “I think we just needed a kick-start. Once we all start going, this team is very successful.”
Garcia faced and struck out three batters in the seventh inning to ensure an eighth – in which another single by Jordan sent Bruin runners on second and third home to start a four-run rally for UCLA.
Bulldog pitcher Hailey Dolcini was removed from the competition after Perez sent a fly ball to left field that was bobbled and dropped by the Fresno State outfield to score Jordan and place the final UCLA run on base.
Despite allowing three Bulldog runs to score and walking the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, Garcia escaped the frame with a victory after striking out the last batter of the game with runners on second and third.
“A lot of things went wrong today,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “We’ll take this dub and move on to a fresh start tomorrow.”
Both teams were saved by pitching when they found themselves in jams to start the contest.
A two-on error for the Bulldogs loaded the bases in the top of the first before Dolcini delivered back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning and strand three UCLA runners.
The Bruins faced a similar threat in the bottom of the frame when a walk and a double put the first two Bulldogs in scoring position before Garcia struck out three in a row.
Garcia faced 33 batters in the game – recording 13 strikeouts and one walk. The Olympian reached base four times as a hitter, drawing three walks and an RBI single.
“(Garcia is) experienced and she’s obviously very talented,” Inouye-Perez said. “You never, ever see her get too high or too low, and I’m sure that’s why she’s been so successful throughout her career.”
The Bruins left eight runners on base before either team crossed home for the first time, despite out-hitting Fresno State 5-1 to start the match. In all, UCLA tallied 12 hits while holding the Bulldogs at five.
Fresno State will appear in the elimination bracket Saturday night, where they will vie for a chance to face UCLA again in the regional final – which will take place Sunday at 3 p.m.
“Every team has done something to be a top team and have the opportunity to play in this postseason,” Inouye-Perez said. “We respect our opponents, but we focus on ourselves. We’re going to show up and play for us tomorrow.”