I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating again: These Bruins dig the long ball!
For the second night in a row, UCLA has come back from being four runs down and rode three-run home runs to victory.
Rachel Garcia seemed a little bit off early in the game. After Amanda Lorenz got on base due to an error by Briana Perez, she eventually scored the first run of the game on a wild pitch by Garcia.
In the second inning, the Bruins fell behind 2-0 when Garcia gave up and uncharacteristic home run to Sophia Reynoso. It was the first of three homers Garcia allowed on the night. Considering that she only gave up six homers during the entire regular season, it was concerning.
In the third, Garcia gave up her second homer of the game. This time, it was a 2-run shot to center by Kayli Kvistad that also scored Lorenz.
Then, the momentum shifted in the top of the fourth.
With Aaliyah Jordan on second and Briana Perez on third, Garcia walked to load the bases. Bubba Nickles also drew a walk to score Perez.
That brought Madeline Jelenicki to the plate. Jelenicki popped a ball up into foul territory, but it was deep enough for Jordan to tag and try to score.
From the replays, it was clear that Jordan was out, but the umpire blew the call and Jordan was safe. Thankfully, there isn’t instant replay in college softball because it would have cost the Bruins more than just the one run. It would have cost them four runs and probably the game.
Because she was called safe, Taylor Pack came to the plate and Pack hit a 3-run homer to left to clear the bases and give UCLA their first lead of the game 5-4.
TAYLOR PACK GOES YARD!! @UCLASoftball takes the LEAD 5-4 over the Gators! #WCWS pic.twitter.com/WFf7LFYZjB— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) June 2, 2018
Now pitching with the lead, Garcia settled down and kept the Gators scoreless in the bottom half of the fourth as well as the fifth.
In the top of the sixth, Bubba Nickles connected on a solo shot to left center that gave the Bruins an insurance run, which they ended up needing because, in the bottom of the inning, Garcia gave up her third homer of the game to Jordan Roberts, who was pinch-hitting for Aleshia Ocasio.
SEE. YOU. LATER.— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) June 2, 2018
BUBBA NICKLES blasts a solo shot to extend @UCLASoftball's lead to 6-4! #WCWS pic.twitter.com/OfkkReaIN8
While Nickles’ homer proved to be the game-winner for UCLA, the blown call at home was really the pivotal moment of the game because, without it, four of the Bruins’ six runs would not have scored and it would have been a completely different result.
Meanwhile, Kelly Inouye-Perez has resumed her tendency to both over-manage and under-manage at the same time. It’s like she becomes a different manager when the team gets to the Women’s College World Series.
She over-managed on offense by sending in pinch-hitters, who both struck out, in the seventh when UCLA had a one-run lead rather than sticking with her starters. Then she under-managed when she left Garcia in the game despite the fact that she had given up a bunch of homers. In fact, in tonight’s game, she gave up half as many homers as she did during the entire regular season.
The bottom line for tonight’s game is this: UCLA won tonight’s game due to a terrible call by home plate umpire that allowed UCLA to score and despite Kelly Inouye-Perez’s awful game management decisions.
As they say, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.
UCLA now has tomorrow off and has advanced to Semifinal Sunday, where they will just need to beat a team from the Elimination Bracket once in order to advance to the Championship Series which starts Monday.
Go Bruins!!! Bring home 117!!!