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UCLA softball falls to Texas in 1st loss of postseason run

Members of UCLA softball look on from the dugout during a game May 1. The blue and gold dropped its Women’s College World Series opener to Texas on Friday. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

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No. 5 seed UCLA2

By Gavin Carlson

June 2, 2022 12:16 p.m.

This post was updated June 2 at 1:04 p.m.

The Bruins allowed seven combined runs in their first five games of the NCAA Tournament.

They gave up seven in their first game of the Women’s College World Series on Thursday morning.

No. 5 seed UCLA softball (48-9, 19-5 Pac-12) suffered a 7-2 defeat to Texas (43-20-1, 12-6 Big 12) in the first contest of the competition in Oklahoma City. After falling behind 7-0 before recording an out in the sixth, the Bruins avoided their first run-rule defeat in a WCWS game since 1997, but were unable to complete a dramatic comeback.

Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said her team did not play up to its standards, but still believes they can succeed through the remainder of the tournament if they play true to themselves.

“They came out and they executed, and we didn’t, so we didn’t deserve to win that game,” Inouye-Perez said. “I have a lot of belief and faith in this team, and if we play the way we’re capable of playing, then that’s the best.”

The blue and gold threatened to take an early lead after redshirt senior infielder Briana Perez lined a one-out double to left-center field. But after redshirt senior infielder Delanie Wisz blooped the very next pitch to center field for a single, Texas center fielder Bella Dayton hurled the ball home to throw out Perez and keep the game scoreless.

The play at the plate was the closest UCLA got to scoring for the next five frames, as senior pitcher Hailey Dolcini limited the blue and gold to a single hit in frames two through five.

Perez said the team saw the primary pitch it expected but was unable to execute as planned.

“We knew coming in that she was gonna have the riseball – she was gonna spin the ball a lot,” Perez said. “We just knew that we had to get on top of it. I think we could have been a little bit more on top of it.”

Defensively, the Bruins appeared to dodge a bullet in the top of the third after the first-ever challenge in the WCWS overturned a throwing error call at first base that allowed a Longhorn runner to score from second. Instead of a 1-0 Longhorn lead with a runner on and no outs, the batter – second baseman Janae Jefferson – was ruled out at first because of runner interference while the lead runner was forced to move back to second.

But the overturned play only temporarily delayed a four-run third inning from Texas to chase redshirt junior pitcher Megan Faraimo from the game and gain a lead UCLA could not overcome.

On the first pitch following the Bruins’ successful challenge, third baseman Mia Scott crushed a deep fly ball off the white stripe on the top of the center-field wall for an RBI triple. Shortstop Alyssa Washington knocked Scott in soon after with a two-strike single to extend the advantage to 2-0.

Washington’s RBI led to a meeting in the circle between assistant coach Lisa Fernandez and Faraimo, but the damage wasn’t over for Texas.

As Scott did two at-bats prior, catcher Mary Iakopo jumped on the first pitch of the at-bat and crushed a no-doubt two-run home run to push the lead to 4-0 and knock the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year out of the game. The six hit, 2.1 inning-outing tied for her shortest start in a game this season.

“Obviously, I didn’t execute the way I want to,” Faraimo said. “I’m just glad that we got back in the dugout eventually. … We’re just prepared to get after it tomorrow.”

Redshirt senior pitcher Holly Azevedo got the Bruins out of the third after replacing Faraimo, but she too allowed a run when the Jefferson-Scott portion of the lineup entered the batter’s box in the fourth frame. Following a two-out single up the middle from Jefferson, Scott drilled a line drive to left-center for an RBI double – her third hit through the first four innings – to balloon the lead to five runs.

After a brief break from the scoring storm in the fifth inning, Texas rained down a pair of runs in the top of the sixth thanks to a two-run home run from Dayton – the Longhorns’ ninth batter. The strike pushed the lead to 7-0 and led to the blue and gold’s second pitching change of the contest.

Graduate student pitcher Lauren Shaw fought off a Texas attempt to push the lead to an eight-run mercy-rule scenario in the remainder of the top half of the sixth before Wisz hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the frame to cut the lead to 7-2.

But those were all of UCLA’s runs as the blue and gold dropped its WCWS opener and will now have to survive the losers bracket moving forward.

In the 40-year history of the WCWS, only four teams have won the national championship after losing its first game of the competition. The Bruins’ opportunity to be the fifth now begins with an elimination game Friday.

“We didn’t execute today. It happens to be in June,” Inouye-Perez said. “It’s a bad time for that, but the double-elimination bracket allows us to come back. … That’s the focus right now – is just get to the next pitch.”

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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