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Pitcher Taylor Tinsley leads UCLA softball win over California

Sophomore Taylor Tinsley pitches the ball. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

Softball


No. 23 California1
No. 11 UCLA3

By Jack Nelson

April 13, 2024 11:58 a.m.

Consecutive hits spurred a critical threat.

It was the final test in an evening of high pressure. Taylor Tinsley – working with a narrow lead nearly all game long – had fended off many, but faced yet another in the seventh inning.

A failsafe had already begun to warm up in the bullpen, but would never see the circle’s spotlight.

The sophomore pitcher remained a smooth operator.

Weathering multiple situations with runners in scoring position, No. 11 UCLA softball (24-9, 9-3 Pac-12) scraped past No. 23 California (29-12, 4-9) in a 3-1 win at Easton Stadium on Friday night. The Bruins strung together just three hits against the Golden Bears’ six, but rallied behind a nine-strikeout complete game from Tinsley to secure a series-opening victory.

“I trust her (coach Kelly Inouye-Perez) to call the pitches, and I execute and I know she’s super easy with feedback and everything,” Tinsley said. “So we just work as a unit.”

Pressure descended upon the UCLA starter from the beginning, and only continued into the darkening night.

Tinsley quickly quieted Cal’s first two hitters of the matchup, but allowed a double to catcher Lagi Quiroga. A bail-out came in the form of redshirt senior infielder Seneca Curo, who nabbed a high-bouncing grounder on the following play and dished it to first base for the out.

“That was definitely an ESPN play right there, so that definitely got the team hype,” Tinsley said.

UCLA soon had its own opportunity.

Golden Bear Haylei Archer pitched around redshirt senior shortstop Maya Brady and redshirt senior catcher Sharlize Palacios – a duo boasting a combined 19 home runs entering the affair – to put Bruin runners on first and second with just one out against them.

Hitting right into the mitt of the third basemen, though, sophomore infielder Jordan Woolery nixed it all, grounding into a double play that sentenced all three UCLA batters to the dugout.

“We lost out on that opportunity in the first, and that can be heartbreaking,” Inouye-Perez said. “There is no failure. We just got to keep on throwing punches.”

The stalemate only progressed from there.

Cal managed just one hit against Tinsley in the following two frames, while UCLA was kept off the basepath entirely in the second inning and opened the third with their fourth strikeout of the contest.

Then a walk by redshirt senior outfielder Janelle Meoño set the stage for Brady to break the ice.

Looping a double into right-center field, she ensured that Meoño reached third base safely.

“One of my goals is to never make a situation bigger than it already is,” Brady said. “That’s something that I’ve definitely had to learn.”

And in the slimmest of margins, a sprinkle of luck can make a world of difference.

Meoño ran a red light, storming home while Cal bobbled Brady’s grounder in the outfield. Brady would soon join her, advancing to third on a wild pitch and eventually scoring, thanks to a sacrifice fly from graduate outfielder Jadelyn Allchin.

But there would be an answer. Swinging for the fences on an 0-2 pitch, Quiroga launched a ball that hung just fair over the left-field wall. A scoreless contest one inning prior had turned to a 2-1 UCLA advantage.

Both Archer and Tinsley locked into a battle of attrition for the innings to follow, with the former beginning to work in her signature changeup.

“We all agree we could have made adjustments, but we had some good quality at bats, and then she came up with the pitch,” Inouye-Perez said. “With an effective changeup pitcher, we know we’ve got to be able to slow the game down.”

Tinsley was deprived of insurance for the time being, forced to work with a one-run lead as Archer continued to hold off Bruin batters.

But then the bottom of the sixth came around, and with freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Terry lurking in the pen, back-to-back hits from Allchin and Palacios granted Tinsley a cushion.

Inouye-Perez placed her trust in the veteran pitcher to close things out, and though Tinsley surrendered a pair of seventh-inning singles, neither came to fruition.

She would leave both stranded – the final touch in a perpetual escape act.

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Jack Nelson | Sports senior staff
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
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