LSU started yesterday’s game at the Women’s College World Series with two doubles, which gave the Tigers a quick 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the first, the heart of the Bruins’ order couldn’t drive Kylee Perez in, stranding her on third base.
Perez was the first of seven runners UCLA left on base in the game, but it was a bad call in the second inning that proved just as costly. Rachel Garcia started the inning with a double to left center. With two outs and Garcia still on second, Paige Halstead hit a hard shot to second that Tiger second baseman Constance Quinn had trouble handling. So, Garcia headed home. Quinn threw home and Garcia was called out.
The problem is that the replay was a lot closer than it sounds and home plate umpire Leah Bowen was clearly out of position to make the call. She was standing behind the plate where she would have been prohibited from seeing whether the swipe tag of LSU catcher Sahvanna Jaquish was applied before Garcia’s foot got in. It looked like it wasn’t.
The Bruins were able to score in the bottom of the third inning, but not before UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez insisted on playing small ball again by having Kylee Perez, who’s .405 batting average leads the team, bunt Zoe Shaw and Delaney Spaulding over.
Why Inouye-Perez insists on giving opponents free outs with her best hitters confounds me. It would be like Yankee manager Joe Girardi having Aaron Judge bunt.
Brianna Tautalafua hit a grounder back to the pitcher that scored Shaw, but Madeline Jelenicki then flew out to right to strand Spaulding at third. It would have been nice to still have an out after that which may have been possible if KIP didn’t take the bat out of Perez’s hands.
With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth, that’s when Bowen made her second controversial call of the game. She called catcher obstruction despite the fact that Paige Halstead made what appeared to be a clean play that should have been an out.
That gave LSU a 2-1 edge and UCLA left two runners on in both the bottom of the fifth and the bottom of the sixth before going down in order in the seventh.
In an LA Times article, Zach Helfand quotes Bruins coach Kelly Inouye-Perez:
I disagreed with the call, and I still stand by that. I think especially knowing that — as a former catcher, it's very frustrating to be able to see that type of a call made with a perfect throw on an opportunity with a bang-banger. She had the ball well before the runner. It's just an unfortunate situation.
Unfortunate, indeed. The Bruins now drop into the Elimination Bracket and face Texas A&M tomorrow.