By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
After the cancellation of last years season the NCAA tournament UCLA will host the NCAA Regionals at Easton Field. The Double elimination tourney is set to be played Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Bruins finished the season with a 41-4 (19-2, PAC-12) record. They will play Long Beach State in the Friday nightcap set for 7:30 on ESPN2. During the regular season UCLA defeated the Lady 49er’s 5-1 and 10-2. Despite the losses LBSU went 30-9 and 22-2 Big West play. They won a three-game series last weekend over four-time defending Conference Champs Cal State Fullerton to claim the title.
Fresno State and Minnesota open the tourney at 5:00PM, the game can be seen on ESPN2. The Bulldogs who are the #3 seed fell to the UCLA 7-0 in the season opener February 12. They then went on to a 36-10 record and claim the Mountain West title with a 20-4 Conference record. It’s the Bulldogs first post season bid since 2017. They are led by Keahilele Mattson MWC Player of The Year. The Alta Loma high grad was also named Co-Freshman of the Year batting .406 with 7 homers and 22 RBI’s. Adriana Noriega first team All MWC selection.
UCLA is one of six PAC-12 teams in the 64-team field.
Number 6 Arizona and #11 Washington will host regionals while Oregon is playing at #12 Texas and Stanford in at #6 Arkansas.
The pairings did not sit well with some in the PAC-12 who have had teams in the top 15 all year but were give road trips Oregon travels to Texas.
“In all the years of being part of this, to have the PAC-12 disrespected at this level I’m shocked,” said UCLA head coach Kelley Inoyue-Perez. “There were four or five teams in the top eight the majority of the year and we played each other and we played each other and we actually played more games to strengthen our schedule.”
Arizona is hosting Ole Miss, Villanova and UMBC a regional.
Number one Oklahoma is hosting a regional that includes Morgan State, Texas A&M, and Wichita State.
The Sooners they are led by freshman Tiare Jennings of St. Anthony’s Long Beach. She’s batting close to .400 and was the California 2019-2020 Gatorade Player of the Year.
The Bruins took three of four from Arizona 36-13 (12-10 PAC-12) to close out the regular season.
In the final regular season game Kensley Washington went to “Rip City” with a three-run shot to highlight a 7-run fifth inning-helping the Bruins a 7-2 win.
“Before the at-bat coach told me to use my legs,” said Washington. “Our success comes from our confidence and our hitting coach Don Slaught, he definitely knows what the pitchers are going to throw, the trained us all week long and we were able to see it pay-off today.”
Maya Brady had 2-hits and 2 RBI’s. Rachel Garcia (14-0) scattered six hits striking out 5 on 106 pitches. Megan Feraimo tossed the final two frames having 4 K’s allowing one run. Alyssa Denham 0-1 took the loss for the Wildcats.
In 2020 the National Champion Bruins started off the season with a 25-1 record then the PAC -12 and NCAA cancelled the rest of the season which proved to be a ‘bummer’ to many and “disappointing” to Bruin head coach Inouye-Perez. This is the chance to repeat. It’s a time to defend their title.