Bruins in a bind after loss to LSU
Bruins on the brink of elimination after tough loss in softball World Series.
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.