#12 UCLA Softball (38-12, 12-7)
Opponent: #3 Arizona (47-6, 17-5)
When: 6:00 PM PT, Saturday, May 6, 2017
Where: Easton Stadium. Los Angeles, CA
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
UCLA made an impressive start to Senior Weekend with a five-inning, mercy rule smackdown of third-ranked Arizona.
Although the Bruins entered the series with an eight-game winning streak, none of those wins had been against a top-25 opponent. UCLA had racked up a pair of series sweeps against the doormats of the Pac-12 (Cal and Stanford) and added a couple of midweek wins against good but not great southland teams.
That changed last night as the Bruins dominated the conference leading, #3 Wildcats. Rachel Garcia started in the circle for UCLA and held Arizona to just two hits--both singles--in chalking up a complete game shutout.
Garcia had plenty of run support to work with. UCLA struck for three runs in the bottom of the third thanks to an RBI double by Kylee Perez and a two-run double by Brianna Tautalafua.
The Bruins added a run in the fourth. Garcia led off the inning with a single up the middle. After Gabrielle Maurice hit into a force, she swiped second, and scored courtesy of an error on Bubba NIckles' grounder to short.
A Wildcat error contributed to another UCLA run in the bottom of the fifth when Perez' grounder to first was misplayed. Two singles later, Perez brought home UCLA's fifth run. Then, with two outs and two aboard, Nickles crushed the first pitch she saw, driving over the fence in left center. Nickles' blast put the Bruins up 8-0 which ended the Wildcats' miserable evening.
Garcia notched her 16th win of 2017, and Nickles swatted her ninth four-bagger.
Highlights of the Bruins' big win over Arizona are courtesy of the Pac-12 Network:
Bubba Nickles talked about her walk off home run in the postgame interview:
In spite of the win, UCLA remains in fifth in the conference standings, although the Bruins did manage to gain a game on second-place Utah as well as the first-place Wildcats.
The Bruins can secure a third straight series win when they return to the diamond tonight. The start time for game 2 is later than normal for a Saturday contest because the game is being televised on ESPN2.
It seems very likely that Selina Ta'amilo will be UCLA's starting pitcher tonight. She's pitched particularly well lately, and with Garcia pitching just five innings in yesterday's win, Coach Inouye-Perez will probably want to start her again on Sunday.
Although the chances of UCLA catching Arizona in the Pac-12 standings is still a longshot, the stakes remain high for the Bruins as they attempt to position themselves to host a NCAA Tournament Regional. Yesterday's win is significant in that regard, but it would even better if the Bruins take another game from the Wildcats before sending them back to the desert.