#8 UCLA Softball (29-11, 5-6)
Opponent: Oregon State (20-18, 3-8)
When: 2:00 PM PT, Saturday, April 15, 2017
Where: Oregon State Softball Complex, Corvallis, OR
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: Oregon State StatBroadcast
It wasn't pretty, and it sure wasn't comfortable, but UCLA managed to survive a late Beaver rally to earn a 7-5 win in game 2 of their series against Oregon State. Game 3 this afternoon offers UCLA a chance to even its conference record and to claim a third consecutive Pac-12 series win.
Yesterday's contest was a tale of two halves; it was a game in which we witnessed UCLA's Jekyll and Hyde tendencies. Through three and a half innings, the Bruins looked every bit a top-10 team. Rachel Garcia started again for Coach Inouye-Perez, and through three innings allowed just one single and struck out three.
Meanwhile, UCLA's hitter were piling up hits and runs. The Bruins put two on the scoreboard in the first. Kylee Perez hit a one-out single to left, and Brianna Tautalafua reached on a infield error. Madeline Jelenicki drove in the first run of the game with a double into the gap in left center. Garcia then drew a walk to load the bases, and an out later, Bubba Nickles brought home the second run with an infield single.
The Bruins played long ball to add to their lead in the top of the fourth. Gabrielle Maurice led off with an infield single, and Zoe Shaw advanced her to second with a single through the right side. A single by Delaney Spaulding scored Maurice and chased OSU's starting pitcher.
The new hurler didn't fare any better. After getting two quick outs, Jelenicki clubbed a homer to left center to score three more runs, and then Garcia followed with a solo shot to left to give herself a healthy 7-0 lead.
That's when things started to unravel for the Bruins. In the bottom of the fourth, Garcia suffered her first wobble. She surrendered a leadoff homer and walked the next batter on four straight pitches before settling down and retiring the side.
Perhaps Coach Inouye-Perez was thinking about today's game when she opted to replace Garcia in the bottom of the fifth with UCLA leading 7-1. Or maybe she wanted to give Johanna Grauer some work. Either way, it didn't work as planned. Grauer hit a batter. gave up a couple of singles and, ultimately, a run in the bottom of the fifth.
UCLA's lead still looked relatively comfortable at 7-2 heading to the sixth inning, but when the Bruins squandered back-to-back singles by Spaulding and Perez to lead off the sixth, UCLA fans couldn't help but feel a little bit anxious.
Sure enough, Oregon State's hitting picked up where it had left off in the fifth. Grauer conceded four singles and two more runs before Coach KIP recalled Garcia to the circle. With one out and two on, Garcia hit a batter to load the bases, and then after striking out the next hitter, Garcia gave the Beavers their third run of the inning when she walked OSU's Alysha Everett on four pitches.
Garcia fought back to strike out the next batter on three pitches, but the damage had been done: UCLA's seven run lead had shrunk to two.
After the Bruins wasted two more base runners in the top of the seventh, it was left to Garcia to protect UCLA's 7-5 lead. Although she eventually retired the side, she didn't make it easy on herself.
A leadoff single and then a double brought the winning run to the plate for OSU. Garcia promptly walked that batter to put the winning run on first. At that point, with the sacks jammed and no outs, Garcia took care of business, with a strikeout, a ground ball to first that led to a force at home, and a fly ball to dead center for the third out of the inning.
As I said, it wasn't pretty, but it was a much-needed win. Garcia picked up her 13th win of the season, allowing four hits and one run in five and two-thirds innings while striking out seven.
Jelenicki's homer was her 10th of the season, which ties her for the team lead. Garcia's solo blast was her fourth of 2017.
Highlights of yesterday's action are courtesy of the Pac-12 Networks:
Madeline Jelenicki shared her thoughts on the challenge of playing in the nation's toughest conference in the post-game interview:
The Bruins really need to pick up a win in game 3 today in order to make up ground in the Pac-12 standings. In spite of the top four teams in the conference playing each other this weekend, UCLA hasn't managed to pick up a game on any of those teams.
Given how far behind Arizona and Oregon the Bruins have fallen, they need to take advantage of every opportunity to gain ground. UCLA's conference season isn't riding on today's game against the Beavers, but if the Bruins can't move up in the standings while playing the eighth-place team, then they will have to accept that they are likely to finish in the middle of the pack this year.