The UCLA softball team’s stay at the Women’s College World Series got a little longer and a lot more memorable Saturday morning.
Facing elimination against ninth-seeded Texas A&M, the fifth-seeded Bruins responded with an 8-2 win in Oklahoma City that advanced them to a Saturday’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Washington.
Redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia allowed one run on three hits in six innings and hit a two-run home run in UCLA’s five-run seventh inning that blew open a two-run game. The Bruins seemed particularly motivated in the seventh after a play in the sixth that left senior Gabrielle Maurice’s face scratched and bloodied and obviously struck a nerve with 15th-year assistant coach Lisa Fernandez.
On the back end of a double steal, Maurice was tagged in the face trying to avoid the Texas A&M catcher and slammed her head on the ground in the process.
Fernandez and UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez immediately began to argue the call – obstruction is a particularly sensitive subject after a questionable obstruction call against UCLA’s catcher awarded LSU the game-winning run in the Bruins’ 2-1 loss in Thursday’s WCWS opener – and Fernandez didn’t stop arguing until whe was ejected.
She appeared to make contact with the home plate umpire after being ejected, the punishment for which is a two-game suspension. The incident is being reviewed by the NCAA.
With or without its assistant coach, UCLA is moving on. The Bruins won two of three games against Washington when the two faced each other in Seattle during Pac-12 play this season. All three games were high-scoring affairs.
Offense has been UCLA’s calling card this season, but the Bruins scored just one run in each of its two games before mustering eight against Texas A&M. UCLA hit two home runs against the Aggies, increasing its NCAA tournament-leading total to 13.
UCLA needs a win over Washington Saturday and consecutive victories against No. 1 seed Florida on Sunday to advance to next week’s WCWS championship series.