Bru­ins in a bind af­ter loss to LSU

Bru­ins on the brink of elim­i­na­tion af­ter tough loss in soft­ball World Se­ries.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Zach Helfand zach.helfand@la­times.com Twit­ter: @zhelfand

UCLA is on the wrong end of two plays at the plate and loses 2-1 in its opener at World Se­ries in Ok­la­homa City.

Kelly Inouye-Perez trot­ted out of UCLA’s dugout to an area a few paces be­hind home plate, the spot where, in two flashes, the Bru­ins had been dropped to within a loss of elim­i­na­tion in the Women’s Col­lege World Se­ries.

UCLA’s coach stood, arms akimbo, as plate um­pire Leah Bowen did most of the talk­ing. Af­ter al­most 40 sec­onds, Inouye-Perez peeled her­self away.

There had been two split­sec­ond plays at the plate, and UCLA hadn’t pre­vailed in ei­ther of them. Those mo­ments were key Thurs­day for Lou­i­si­ana State, which seized a 2-1 vic­tory over the Bru­ins at Ok­la­homa City.

LSU (48-20) was up 1-0 in the sec­ond in­ning when Rachel Gar­cia, who also pitched all seven in­nings for UCLA (47-14), tried to score from sec­ond on an in­field sin­gle.

As Gar­cia rounded third, LSU sec­ond base­man Con­stance Quinn scooped up the ball and threw. Gar­cia slid. A re­play ap­peared to show Gar­cia’s foot on the plate just be­fore the catcher tagged her hip, but Gar­cia was called out, and there was no ar­gu­ment.

In the fifth in­ning, af­ter UCLA tied the score, Quinn re­ceived the green light from sec­ond base on a sin­gle. Zoe Shaw, UCLA’s right fielder, hurled a one-hop­per just up the third-base line. Quinn had nowhere to go. Catcher Paige Hal­stead ap­plied the tag. But um­pire Bowen ruled Hal­stead had strayed into the basepath early. Quinn was safe on ob­struc­tion, LSU led 2-1 and Inouye-Perez emerged from the dugout.

“I dis­agreed with the call, and I still stand by that,” Inouye-Perez said. “As a for­mer catcher, it’s very frus­trat­ing to be able to see that type of a call made with a per­fect throw on an opportunity with a bang-banger. She had the ball well be­fore the run­ner. It’s just an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion.”

Hal­stead said af­ter­ward that she thought she’d been in proper po­si­tion.

“You dream about mak­ing those plays when you’re a lit­tle girl when you’re a catcher,” Hal­stead said. “It is what it is. It’s in the past.”

Gar­cia gave up six hits and struck out seven in her com­plete-game ef­fort. She yielded two dou­bles to LSU’s first two bat­ters for the Tigers’ first run.

UCLA tied the score in the third on third base­man Bri­anna Tau­ta­la­fua’s RBI ground­out.

The Bru­ins hadn’t lost in the NCAA re­gion­als or su­per re­gion­als and had won 18 of their past 19 games. But the World Se­ries has flus­tered UCLA. The Bru­ins have lost four con­sec­u­tive games in Ok­la­homa City.

This time, their high-pow­ered of­fense sput­tered. UCLA was one for 10 with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion.

No team in the last 13 sea­sons has lost its first Col­lege World Se­ries game and gone on to win the cham­pi­onship. The last time it hap­pened was in 2003. The team: UCLA.

“I shared with them, in 2003 we lost Game 1, but in a whole dif­fer­ent way,” InouyePerez said. “We just didn’t show up and play our game, and it didn’t feel re­ally good. To­day we played UCLA soft­ball. I’m proud of them. But I also said we need to fig­ure out how to be 1% bet­ter.”

Only one other team has won the ti­tle af­ter los­ing its first game. Texas A&M also did it in 1983.

UCLA and Texas A&M, which lost its opener to Florida, will meet in an elim­i­na­tion game Satur­day.

Helfand re­ported from New York.

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