Softball defeats Virginia Tech, secures spot in Women’s College World Series
No. 2 seed UCLA softball defeated Virginia Tech 6-0 on Saturday to win its Super Regional. The Bruins will now have the chance to defend their 2019 national championship in the Women’s College World Series. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 2 seed UCLA||6|
By Coral Smith
May 29, 2021 9:18 p.m.
This post was updated May 31 at 8:15 p.m.
After two games of limited offense, the Bruins finally broke through to win the series.
No. 2 seed UCLA softball (46-5, 19-2 Pac-12) completed its comeback over Virginia Tech (37-15, 23-11 ACC) after falling behind in the Super Regional series 0-1, winning Saturday’s decisive game three 6-0. With the victory, the Bruins advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the 30th time in program history with a shot to defend their title as the reigning National Champions.
After largely struggling against Virginia Tech’s star pitcher Keely Rochard in the first two games of the series – UCLA hit just .140 against Rochard in games one and two – the Bruin hitters finally made the adjustments necessary to produce offensively in all parts of the lineup.
“We just watched film and then went back to what we do best and tried to stay within ourselves,” said redshirt junior infielder Briana Perez. “We made an adjustment with her rise balls, took away her up pitch, so she kind of had to come down.”
The Bruins struck first, bringing in a run in the opening frame. Redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan just beat out the throw on a grounder for a single, then redshirt senior pitcher Rachel Garcia came up to bat. Garcia was 0-for-6 so far in the series but finally broke through for a line-drive single to left.
Jordan scored with two outs later in the inning on a fielding error by Hokie second baseman Addy Greene. A similar error by the Virginia Tech defense brought in an additional run for UCLA in the next inning, making it 2-0.
Freshman outfielder Lauryn Carter, pinch-running for redshirt freshman catcher Alyssa Garcia, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and crossed home plate when Greene made her second error of the game on a routine grounder.
UCLA scored in every inning until the fourth when a close call at the plate ended the inning. Redshirt sophomore utility Anna Vines tried to steal home after a pitch got away from the Virginia Tech catcher but couldn’t quite avoid the lunging tag.
Another close play gave the Hokies their first runner in scoring position in the top of the fifth when leadoff batter shortstop Kelsey Bennett hit a ball into the right-center gap and narrowly avoided being tagged out at second stretching the hit into a double.
But despite the momentum appearing to be in Virginia Tech’s favor, Garcia shut it down, retiring the next three batters to preserve the shutout. Garcia said in these critical situations, the team tries to slow the game down and focus on one pitch at a time to stop its opponents’ momentum in its tracks.
“I just think we go out taking deep breaths, slowing the game down, even if it’s calling timeout to pull the team together, which we do,” Garcia said. “It’s just being able to pull ourselves together and get one out at a time.”
After giving up six runs in her start in UCLA’s loss Thursday, Garcia rebounded to throw seven innings of shutout softball, giving up only two hits while striking out 13.
“Bottom line is, what I got to see from (Garcia) is that her defining moment wasn’t on Thursday, it was today, against a team that has clearly studied her and had a plan against her, to put herself in a position to be different and come up with some critical pitches that definitely threw them off,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
While the Bruins’ first two runs were scored through small ball, their next four came courtesy of two long balls. Perez hit a solo home run in the third, and redshirt freshman utility Maya Brady sent out a three-run home run in the fifth, her second in two days.
“We actually said going into the game our goal was the score on base hits back-to-back,” Perez said. “Obviously if the long ball happens, it happens, but we were really just trying to play together and string (hits) together.”
That second home run was enough to chase Rochard, who finished having given up six runs, four earned.
UCLA will now travel to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series starting June 3.
“The whole team was involved in helping us win, and that’s when we’re at our best,” Inouye-Perez said. “This program, this team, does not rely on any one player. It’s a big part of who we are, and everybody got better and put us in a position to get back to OKC.”