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UCLA Survives a Late Rally by the Huskies

Rachel Garcia snuffed out sixth and seventh inning Husky rallies to help the Bruins win game 2 against Washington.

#13 UCLA Softball (26-8, 2-3)

Opponent: #8 Washington (26-8, 3-5)

When: 5:00 PM PT, Sunday, April 2, 2017

Where: Husky Softball Stadium, Seattle, WA

Audio: None

Video: Pac-12 Network

Live Stats: Washington Huskies StatBroadcast

Official Game Preview | Game Notes

It wasn't easy, but the Bruins clinched the weekend series in Washington yesterday with a 9-8 win with Rachel Garcia retiring the last two Husky batters with the bases loaded. If the Bruins win again today, they'll earn their first Pac-12 sweep of 2017.

Game 2 looked a lot like Game 1 through the first four innings. Johanna Grauer started in the circle and looked tough in the early going. The Bruins grabbed a comfortable 4-0 in the third through four hits and a Washington error. Bubba Nickles led off the inning with a double to left and advanced to third when Shaw hit a grounder to the right side. Kylee Perez then smacked a single to center to score Nickles, and Delaney Spaulding followed with a double to center to put runners at second and third.

After a Husky error that allowed Perez to score and a ground out by Madeline Jelenicki that advanced the runners, Paige Halstead knocked a single up the middle to score two more runs.

Grauer ran into trouble in the bottom half of the fourth. She walked two before a one-out error by Kylee Perez loaded the bases. Selina Ta'amilo was summoned from the bullpen, and she quickly snuffed out the Husky threat with back-to-back strikeouts.

UCLA added to its lead in the top of the fifth. Solo home runs by Brianna Tautalafua and Rachel Garcia gave the Bruins a commanding 6-0 lead with the Huskies down to their final nine outs.

That's when Ta'amilo ran into trouble. The Washington rally started with a walk and a wild pitch, putting a runner at second. Ta'amilo got the first out of the inning on a grounder to second, but then gave up a single to right that gave the Huskies their first run. Ta'amilo then issued her second walk of the inning, and the next batter slammed a three-run homer to right to cut UCLA's lead to two runs.

In the top of the sixth, the Bruins got most of those runs back. Shaw started the rally with a single into left. Perez bunted and was safe at first. Then Spaulding was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. One out later, Jelenicki clubbed a double to left field to drive in two. Halstead then rapped a single to center to drive in the Bruins' third run of the inning.

The Huskies picked up in the sixth where they'd left off in the fifth. Ta'amilo gave up a leadoff single before retiring the next two batters. Ta'amilo then walked the next two batters before Grauer returned to the circle. Grauer promptly gave up three straight singles for four runs before Garcia was called to the circle to put out the fire. Four pitches later, the side was retired, but at that point Washington had pulled to within one run at 9-8.

After the Bruins went down quietly in the seventh, it came down to Garcia against the team she had dominated the day before. The inning started well for Garcia with a five-pitch strikeout. The next batter hit a dribbler to short that she beat out for a hit. That was followed by a bloop single to left that just evaded the glove of Delaney Spaulding at short. Then the fourth batter of the inning hit a soft grounder to the right side and Perez tried to get the out at second instead of the easy out at first. That left the sacks jammed with one out.

It wasn't looking good for UCLA, but Garcia dug deep and got the last two outs on a strikeout and a fly ball to center to secure the Bruins' 9-8 win.

The game highlights (courtesy of the Pac-12 Network) unfortunately focus on Washington's late rally:

Paige Halstead was chosen for the postgame interview based on her team-leading three hits and three RBI:

With the two victories in Washington, UCLA has climbed out of the cellar and into fourth place in the Pac-12. However, if the Bruins lose today in the series finale, they could slide as far down as sixth in the standings.

It's possible that Coach Inouye-Perez may start Rachel Garcia today. Both Grauer and Ta'amilo threw about 60 pitches yesterday, and neither one was particularly effective. The other option is to start Paige McDuffee, assuming that she's healthy.

Although UCLA's pitching yesterday wasn't as good as we've come to expect, the Bruins hitting seems to be back on track. UCLA collected 13 hits, six of which were extra base hits, and the nine runs they put on the scoreboard was the highest total in their last 22 games. If the Bruins can keep hitting like that, they'll be able to survive the rare off-day from their pitching staff.