So far this season, 13 of the UCLA softball team’s 35 wins have been shortened by the mercy rule, but, last night, the Bruins needed all seven innings to get past #11 Arizona.
UCLA got on the board first in the top of the second when Rachel Garcia homered to right center, but the Wildcats came right back and took a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning after Bruin starter Selena Ta’amilo allowed Arizona’s first two batters to reach base.
That prompted a pitching change by Kelly Inouye-Perez, who brought in Rachel Garcia, but the runners still scored.
It stayed 2-1 until the top of the fifth when Madeline Jelenicki hit her first home run of the season to tie the game back up. In the bottom half of the inning, the Cats tagged Garcia for two more runs to re-take the lead, 4-2.
In the top of the sixth, Garcia got those runs back by blasting a two-run homer to right-center, which also scored Kylee Perez, to make it 4-4.
Then, things got a little strange, at least for the baseball fans out there. To start the bottom of the sixth, Inouye-Perez opted for another pitching change, but, instead of bringing in the third pitcher of the game, she turned back to Selina Ta’amilo because NCAA softball rules allow players to return to the game after being taken out.
So, Ta’amilo started and finished the game, while Garcia pitched four innings in between. Ta‘amilo shut down the Wildcats in the sixth and the teams went into the seventh inning still tied 4-4.
The Bruins rallied in the top half of the inning when Briana Perez singled and her sister Kylee doubled to score Briana, giving UCLA a 5-4 edge. Aaliyah Jordan followed with a single and Garcia was walked intentionally to load the bases for Brianna Tautalafua.
That’s a little like walking Aaron Judge to pitch to Giancarlo Stanton.
After Jenna Crawford came in to pinch-run for Garcia, Tautalafua singled through the right side, scoring Perez but Jordan was thrown out at home. So, the Bruins were now up 6-4 with two outs.
That brought Bubba Nickles to the plate with runners on first and second. She hit the first pitch into center to score Crawford and UCLA took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Reyna Carranco doubled to lead off the seventh for Arizona and she was followed by Alyssa Palomino who hit a two-run home run to cut the Bruins’ lead to just one. Ta’amilo got each of the next three batters out to earn her ninth win of the season, albeit one of the strangest wins I can recall, due to that substitution rule.
Taylor McQuillin pitched a complete game for Arizona, but took the loss dropping her to 18-7 on the season.
Tonight, the teams meet again as the Bruins look for the series win. While last night’s game was broadcast on ESPNU, tonight’s game shifts over to Pac-12 Networks Los Angeles and Arizona. First pitch is at 7 pm PT.
This is your UCLA Bruins at Arizona Wildcats softball game open thread.