UCLA rallies to top Florida in WCWS
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) For the second straight day, UCLA rallied from a four-run deficit to win a Women’s College World Series game.
The Bruins to beat Florida 6-5 Friday night and now are one win from the championship series.
UCLA used a six-run sixth inning to beat Florida State 7-4 on Thursday , then put up a five-run fourth Friday.
”Once someone gets it started, we’re on fire,” UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia said.
The pitching matchup featured the two most recent USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award winners as Garcia, this year’s winner, got the best of Florida’s Kelly Barnhill. Garcia struck out 15 while Barnhill struck out 13.
Florida coach Tim Walton was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing with the umpire about the strike zone. An NCAA spokesperson said Walton was not be suspended and will coach Florida’s elimination game Saturday against the winner of the Oklahoma-Arizona State game.
Walton was happy early on – Kayli Kvistad’s two-run homer in the third inning put Florida up 4-0.
Barnhill threw a perfect game the first three innings and struck out the first eight batters she faced, but UCLA got it going in the fourth. Madeline Jelenicki fouled a pitch off and the ball was caught for the second out, but the Bruins sent Aaliyah Jordan home on the play, and she was ruled safe on a close call at the plate for the second run of the inning.
”It wouldn’t have been a good thing if she got thrown out at the dish right there,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. ”But we have been aggressive. It’s been something that I said from the beginning of this season, is that we are going to be aggressive. We are going to take risks.”
The next batter, Taylor Pack, cranked a three-run homer that put UCLA up 5-4. It was just the third homer of the junior’s career.
The inning started on a throwing error by Barnhill, then she hit a batter and walked two more before the real damage was done. Pack’s hit was the first hit Barnhill allowed in the game.
”It definitely wasn’t the ideal way to start off the inning,” Barnhill said. ”After that, I guess I just didn’t feel exactly locked in. Really wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. And when you walk people and make errors, they make you pay for it.”
Pack said she wasn’t looking for anything specific from Barnhill, she was just trying to find the ball.
”I know I’ve been preparing for this all three years that I’ve been here, so I was nervous, but I knew I had nothing to lose here,” Pack said. ”So I just kind of put everything I had into that at-bat and I tried to do everything I could for the team.”
Bubba Nickles homered in the sixth to push the Bruins’ lead to 6-4. Florida’s Jordan Roberts hit a solo homer in the sixth to make 6-5, but Garcia struck out all three batters she faced in the seventh to clinch the win.
”What I love about this season is we have done phenomenal things,” Inouye-Perez said. ”We’ve put up great numbers because they’re playing ball, I trust them. I trust their instincts. Are we perfect? No. But we’re here to win. And when you’re here to win, you don’t fear failure. You go for it.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .