Through the first five innings of last night’s game, it looked like the Bruins picked up where they left off last weekend as they took a 4-0 lead.
In the second inning, Rachel Garcia hit a solo homer to help her own cause to get UCLA on the scoreboard.
In the third, the Bruins went small ball. Delaney Spaulding scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Brianna Tautalafua. Kylee Perez later scored on a Gabrielle Maurice single and Tautalafua later scored on a throwing error when Maurice stole second.
Then, in the sixth, things changed and UCLA found themselves on the ropes for the first time this post-season as the Rebels batted around and scored 5 runs in the top of the sixth to take a 5-4 lead.
The teams went into the bottom of the seventh with the score still 5-4. The Bruins needed just a bloop and a blast to win the game. Spaulding set that up perfectly with her single down the right field line. A wild pitch moved her to second. She was able to advance to third on a ground out by Tautalafua to short.
With UCLA down to their final strike, Ole Miss pitcher Kaitlin Lee threw a wild pitch that scored Spaulding to tie the game. and the teams went to extra innings.
After two scoreless extra innings, Ole Miss struck again for two runs in the top of the 10th as Garcia passed 200 pitches for the game.
At the time, it looked like Bruins head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez had made a critical mistake by allowing Garcia to pitch the 10th inning. After all, it looked like Garcia was tired during the 9th inning even though she hadn’t given up a run then. So, the fact that KIP let Garcia pitched the 10th was a really questionable move.
But, the Bruins’ bats saved the game in the bottom of the 10th.
Garcia helped her cause again with a single through the left side. Jenna Crawford pinch-ran for Garcia and moved up to second on a single up the middle by Maurice. That brought Bubba Nickles to the plate as the potential winning run.
Nickles hit a long fly ball down to right that hit the wall and scored both Crawford and Maurice to tie the game while Nickles advance to third on the throw home. Paige Halstead couldn’t drive in Nickles and the game went to the 11th.
Garcia threw a 1-2-3 11th.
In the bottom of the 11th, Zoe Shaw walked to bring up Spaulding. This is when KIP made another bizarre coaching decision.
She took the bat out of the hands of her best hitter by having Spaulding lay down a sacrifice bunt to move Shaw to second. It was absolutely bizarre and totally questionable and, if UCLA had lost the game, it would definitely have been a coaching call that could have cost the Bruins the game. You just don’t do it.
Perez walked next to give the Bruins runners on first and second with one out. Tautalafua struck out and it was looking like it was time to start questioning KIP’s strange decisions.
But, Madeline Jelenicki hit a grounder threw the right side to score Shaw and earn the Bruins the victory.
UCLA now leads the best-of-3 series 1-0 and, tonight, they go for the sweep.
The biggest question after last night is: Will Kelly Inouye-Perez continue making strange coaching decisions that will allow Ole Miss to force Game 3 on Saturday?