By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
It was a heck of a weekend in Westwood as the UCLA softball team worked and fought it’s way back to the Women College World Series for a record 30th time. A 6-0 win against Virginia Tech propelled them to the big show in Oklahoma City.
With the best of three series tied at one game apiece the Bruins (46-5) felt some urgency and scored in the first three frames in the winner-take-all contest.
Aalyiah Jordan led off the first frame with an infield single followed by Rachael Garcia’s single. Later in the inning after both advanced on a ground out. Brianna Perez hit a chopper to second that stymied the second baseman and allowed Jordan to score.
In the second inning Alyssia Garcia was hit by a pitch and Lauryn Carter came in to pinch run. The freshman from Serra High promptly stole second, went to third on a wild-pitch and scored on an error to make it 2-0 Bruins.
In the third, Perez went “Rip City” with a solo blast to right center, her 13th of the year, that gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
In the fifth after a Rachel Garcia walk and Delanie Wisz reached on an error Maya Brady went “Uptown” with a three-run shot to right center giving the home team a 6-0 lead. The “fired-up” freshman homered in back-to-back games in the series. That makes her a true “Uptown Girl”.
“The girl crushes the ball out of the stadium everyday in practice,” said Bruin head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “It’s a whole different thing to do it in the PAC-12 post season and especially Super Regionals on a pitch that’s been a challenge. I think that was the best part she has been working on that and I love that she got a pay-out.”
Rachel Garcia (17-1) went the complete seven striking out 13 giving up just 2 hits. Hokie hitters were having trouble keeping up with the three-time PAC-12 Player of The Year who finished the game striking out the final five batters she faced.
Garcia bounced back after giving up six runs and nine hits in the opening game of the series.
“It’s crazy to think that this will be my last game here but I’m super, super blessed to be a part of this,” said Garcia. “Just to wear these four letters (UCLA), I am proud to be a part of this Bruin bubble. I get to represent UCLA the rest of my life”
In Game two “Super Sophomore” Megan Faraimo (19-3) faced a Hokie team that scored 24 runs in three games, even run ruling BYU 11-3 in the title game to take the Tempe Regionals. She was dominant holding the Hokies to 1-hit while striking out 11 on 86 pitches.
Maya Brady went “Uptown” with a two-run homer to Center and Aalyiah Jordan went to “Rip City” in the third and that’s all Faraimo needed.
Garcia who received her first loss of the season opened the series giving up six runs along with 9 hits before being relieved by Megan in the 5th inning. The usually sound Bruin defense had a season high five errors in the game.
The Hokies Keeley Rochard had a perfect game going into the fifth inning. The ACC Pitcher of the Year held UCLA in check allowing just 3-hits, striking out 12. Freshman Cam Fagan and Kelsey Bennett each knocked in two runs.
The Hokies were attempt to get to the WCWS for the second time in school history (2008).
“We got the win and that means we belong here” said Hokie Head coach. “Our players came out really, really focused tonight.”
This is the 30th trip to OKC for UCLA but it will be Coach Inouye-Perez’s 24th time participating. As a player she’s been a three-time Champion, also a three-time Champion assistant coach, and she’s won Championships in 2010 and 2019 as the teams head coach.
The team will take on Florida State in its opener Thursday June 3 on ESPN.