UCLA softball advances to Super Regional

UCLA’s Brianna Tautalafua shows her excitement after hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning during finals of the NCAA Softball Regional against Cal State Fullerton at Easton Stadium in UCLA in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 21, 2017. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

A grand slam by Brianna Tautalafua and a clutch strike out by Rachel Garcia decided two critical bases-loaded situations for the UCLA softball team that allowed the fifth-seeded Bruins to advance to the NCAA Super Regional after a 9-1 win over Cal State Fullerton on Sunday.

Garcia, who was starting her third straight game Sunday, was stellar down the stretch as she retired 12 of the final 13 batters. She worked out of a third-inning jam that proved to be one of the critical moments of the game. With the bases loaded and UCLA holding on to a one-run lead, Garcia struck out CSF catcher Kylie Padilla to retire the side and keep the Titans scoreless.

Tautalafua then hit a grand slam in the fifth inning, which was part of a five-run frame for the Bruins that broke a previously tight game open. She had three home runs and eight RBIs during UCLA’s three regional wins as the Bruins collected 27 total runs.

UCLA hosts Ole Miss in the Super Regional, which starts Thursday at Easton Stadium. Unlike previous years, the best-of-three series to decide who will advance to the Women’s College World Series, will be played with one game a day, with the third game if necessary instead of a three-game, two-day format.

MORE ON UCLA’S REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WIN

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Long ball leads UCLA softball into NCAA regional final

Delaney Spaulding hit her second home run in as many games to lead UCLA to a 10-2 win over San Jose State on Saturday. (Photo courtesy UCLA Athletics)

In two games, the UCLA softball team has scored 18 runs with seven home runs. The Bruins have yet to play a full seven-inning game while cruising to Sunday’s NCAA Los Angeles Regional final after they run-ruled San Jose State 10-1 in six innings Saturday.

Delanay Spaulding, Madeline Jelenicki and Brianna Tautalafua each hit two-run homers Saturday while Rachel Garcia added her sixth homer of the season.

Spaulding has a team-high five RBIs in the regional tournament so far.

With Saturday’s win, the Bruins are one victory away from their fourth straight Super Regional. They need one win Sunday against Cal State Fullerton to host next weekend’s Super Regional. The first game is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Easton Stadium with the second at 6:30 p.m. if necessary.

Full recap of UCLA’s win Saturday.

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Rachel Garcia tosses no-hitter in UCLA win over Lehigh

Redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia knocked out her first career postseason appearance and her first no-hitter on the same night.

The ace from Highland High led UCLA to an 8-0, run-rule win over Lehigh on Friday night in UCLA’s regional opener. The Bruins will face San Jose State in the second round Saturday at 2 p.m. at Easton Stadium.

Of Garcia’s 80 total pitches, 54 were strikes as she faced only one batter more than the five-inning minimum. Working with catcher Paige Halstead, Garcia struck out eight, including five of the first seven batters she faced. The only blemish on the perfect game was a hit-by-pitch in the second inning.

“She was dominating today,” head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said.

Delaney Spaulding led the Bruins on offense with three RBIs.

More on UCLA’s tournament-opening win.

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Rachel Garcia leads UCLA softball into NCAA Tournament

Rachel Garcia won the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award while helping UCLA softball to a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy Katie Meyers)

Kelly Inouye-Perez knows great pitchers. The former UCLA catcher and current UCLA softball head coach won three NCAA titles as a player and caught games for Bruin legends Lisa Longaker and Lisa Fernandez who combined for seven first-team All-American honors.

So when Inouye-Perez says her newest ace Rachel Garcia reminds her a bit of Fernandez, it’s not just hyperbole.

“No one really got comfortable in the box with Lisa (Fernandez) pitching,” Inouye-Perez said. “It was her presence and ability to attack hitters really aggressively that put them in that position. Rachel is very similar.”

Garcia is possibly the next great UCLA pitcher as the redshirt freshman leads the Bruins into postseason play this weekend. .

More on Garcia, who will start against Lehigh on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Easton Stadium.

Scouting the Los Angeles Regional field: Continue reading “Rachel Garcia leads UCLA softball into NCAA Tournament” »

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Softball earns No. 5 seed in NCAA tournament

UCLA advanced to the Women’s College World Series last year after upsetting Oregon in the Super Regional in Eugene. The Bruins are the No. 5 seed in this year’s tournament. (Collin Andrew/The Register-Guard via AP)

One day after polishing off a sweep of No. 22 Arizona State to finish the regular season, the UCLA softball team earned the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament Sunday and the opportunity to host a regional round this weekend.

The Bruins (42-13) start postseason play at Easton Stadium on Friday at 8:30 p.m. against Lehigh (TV: ESPN2). San Jose State and Cal State Fullerton are the other two teams in the Los Angeles Regional. If UCLA advances, it will host the winner of the Oxford regional, which is led by 12th seeded Ole Miss.

UCLA went to the Women’s College World Series as the 12th seed last year after upsetting Oregon in the Super Regional.

The Pac-12 sent eight teams to the tournament, led by No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 3 Oregon. UCLA has regular-season series victories over both the Wildcats and Ducks.

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