A six-run sixth inning launched the UCLA Bruins Women’s Softball team’s comeback over Florida State in final game of the Women’s College World Series opening day action.
It was the perfect ending for an exciting day in Oklahoma City, one which saw the two-time defending champion Oklahoma Sooners fall to a textbook pitching and defensive performance from the Washington Huskies.
Florida posted a run-rule victory over Georgia, and Oregon outlasted Arizona State in an offensive explosion in the days’ opener.
The top-seeded Ducks will now face Washington today at 7:00PM (ET) in the winner's bracket. The Ducks took all three games from the Huskies in Seattle last month and the two schools also faced off a year ago in Oklahoma City - UW won 3-1 in the opener to push the Ducks to the loser's bracket, with both teams reaching the semifinal round.
For the Bruins, a showdown with SEC Champion Florida is on the plate with a scheduled 9:30PM (ET) start today - it will be the first meeting of the two teams this season.
In elimination play, Oklahoma and Arizona State square off to stay alive, while Florida State and Georgia will battle for survival on their side of the bracket.
UCLA hurler, and USA Softball National Player of the Year Rachel Garcia had struck out seven in the first four innings and held the Florida State offense hitless when the FSU offense capitalized on her ability to find the strike zone.
Three walks, followed by the Seminole’s first hit – a single to center by left fielder Dani Morgan – brought in the first run of the game and opened the floodgates. FSU pushed the lead to 4-0 on Sydney Sherrill’s three-run double to left later in the frame.
The Seminoles opted to start Meghan King in the circle, in lieu of staff ace Kylee Hanson. King went a solid 4 ⅔ innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk - she fanned six.
Things were not looking good for the Bruins, down 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth when Kylee Perez connected for an RBI single to score Taylor Pack. The run gave UCLA their first run, but left runners on first and second with just one out. Seminole coach Lonni Alameda called on Hanson to face Garcia, who she struck out swinging to end the inning and the Bruins’ threat.
In the Bruins half of the sixth, Kinsley Washington pinch-hit with the bases loaded, and lifted a sacrifice fly to score Stevie Wisz and cut the Seminole lead to 4-2. Kylee Perez then blasted a Hanson pitch over the right field wall to put the Bruins up for the first time, 5-4.
An insurance run came after a triple by Jordan, which scored Briana Perez who reached on a perfectly placed but on the next pitch after her sister’s blast. Then another when Garcia reached on an error by shortstop Cali Harrold to give UCLA a 7-4 lead.
Garcia allowed a lead-off hit in the seventh, but shut down the FSU hitters in order from there, snagging a bloop pop-up for the final out of the game.
Behind three home runs, including a three-run shot from senior Aleshia Ocasio in the bottom of the opening frame, the Florida Gators posted an 11-3 run-rule victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in their first round WCWS match up.
Ocasio’s dinger was part of a five-run frame for the Gators, who kept the lead throughout and moved to 41-0 on the season when putting up five runs or more.
Gator coach Tim Walton made the move to start Ocasio over junior ace Kelly Barnhill. Ocasio allowed three hits and a homer in the first inning, and allowed another with two outs in the third, but was effective in getting out of several jams, with the help of the stellar Gator defense.
The Gator offense was firing on all cylinders, with every batter in the lineup reaching base.
Prior to Ocasio’s homer, freshman designated player Jordan Matthews continued to swing a hot-bat with a two-run double off the left field wall. After the Gators added a run on a fielder’s choice in the second, the Bulldogs made an attempt to get back in the game after a solo shot from Alyssa DiCarlo in the third, but that was all the Dawgs could muster.
Hitting for Matthews, sophomore Jordan Roberts blasted a two-run shot in the fourth to put UF up 8-3, and after freshman second baseman Hannah Adams followed with a solo blast in the fifth, the writing was on the wall for the Gators.
Three straight walks by Georgia pitchers, followed by a hit batter put the Gators up 11-3, to put an end to the contest.
Washington’s defense was key in the Huskies’ 2-0 shutout of defending champion Oklahoma on Thursday in their first round matchup in Oklahoma City, highlighted by a game-saving diving grab by Huskie right fielder Trysten Melhart.
“We pride ourselves in our defense and we’re pretty lucky to have these types of players that can come to Washington and do things,” UW coach Heather Tarr said. “Only three strikeouts defensively, so we’re going to have to make several outs via defense. They are all together, as always, and they are a fun team to watch. It was a great game today on defense. It was pretty elite.”
Huskie freshman hurler Gabbie Plain and OU All-American Paige Parker were locked in a pitcher’s duel for most of the game, limiting opposing offenses to ground outs and fly balls.
But OU head coach Patty Gasso pulled Parker in the fifth for a fresh arm, and entered flame-throwing southpaw Paige Lowary — but Lowary was unable to shut down the Huskie bats.
With runners on second and third, Sis Bates hit a slow comebacker to Lowary, who charged the plate and flipped the ball to OU catcher Lea Wodach - the toss was to the first base side, allowing Melhart to slide under the tag for the game’s first run.
Julia DePonte added a double to shallow center to bring in another run to take the lead to two runs.
With a 2-run deficit entering the sixth inning, Sooners’ hitters Sydney Romero and Jocelyn Alo both kept the inning going with a pair of two-out singles.
At that point Tarr brought in pitcher Taran Alvelo to relieve freshman hurler Gabbie Plain. Shay Knighten responded for the Sooners drilling a fly ball to right field that appeared to be dropping, but Melhart managed a diving, juggling catch to keep the Sooners from crossing the plate.
Alevelo sat down the first two Sooner hitters in the seventh before Nicole Mendes singled, followed by a single by Caleigh Clifton to bring Kylie Lundberg to the plate as the tying run. Alevelo struck out Lundberg to end the game.
Plain picked up the win after giving up four hits and no runs in 5 2/3 innings. Alvelo earned her third save of the season.
Arizona State’s All-American pitcher Giselle Juarez let up a season-worst 10 earned runs against the Oregon powerhouse offense in the opening game in Oklahoma City Thursday afternoon, as the Ducks overpowered the Sun Devils, 11-6..
Early offense came from the top of the Ducks’ order, led by speedburners Jenna Lilley and Alexis Mack. Sophomores Haley Cruse and Shannon Rhodes left the yard late to give some cushion for sophomore starter Miranda Elish, who picked up the win despite offering up a pair of Sun Devil homers.
ASU opened the scoring and jumped to a 2-0 lead on a homer by freshman DeNae Chatman in the top of the first inning. But the Ducks responded in the bottom half with three consecutive bunts, followed by a game-tying, two-run single by senior Gwen Svekis to knot the game at two.
It would be the last Oregon trailed in the game.
For the day, Rhodes finished 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBI. Mack also finished with three hits. Svekis, Cruse, and Lauren Burke all drove in a pair of runs.
Megan Kleist entered to close out the game for Elish, and in her first relief appearance of the season the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year allowed just one run in two innings of work.