UCLA softball upset by Texas in College World Series opener

UCLA picked a bad time for a bad game.

Unseeded Texas defeated the fifth-seeded Bruins in the opening game of the Women’s College World Series on Thursday, sending the Bruins into the losers bracket with a 7-2 loss at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.

It ended an eight-game winning streak for the Bruins, who came up short at the plate, where they put runners in goal position only twice, and in the circle, where their vaunted pitching staff gave up two two-run homers.

“They executed. We are not. We didn’t deserve to win the game today,” said UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “But I think my team will fight back.”

UCLA (48-9) will battle Northwestern for their season Friday at 4:00 p.m. PDT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Northwestern lost 13-2 in five innings to Oklahoma on Thursday.

Texas catcher Mary Iakopo is greeted by her team on home plate after hitting a home run.

Texas catcher Mary Iakopo, 33, celebrates with her teammates on home plate after hitting a home run in the third inning against UCLA on Thursday.

(Alonzo Adams/Associated Press)

Despite the bumpy early season, the Bruins appeared to be at their peak with their seventh straight World Series appearance. They went undefeated in the regional and super-regional rounds. They outperformed their opponents 39-7.

Then Texas (44-19-1) in three innings equaled their total runs allowed in UCLA’s five postseason games.

The Longhorns, making their World Series debut since 2013, scored the most runs in a World Series game in program history. And it competed against UCLA’s pitching staff, which ranks second in the country in ERA (1.38).

Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Faraimo and Holly Azevedo, UCLA’s first 20-win pitcher pairing since 2002, gave up 11 hits, including a two-run homer each, while hitting just three together.

“Obviously I didn’t execute like I wanted to, but I’m just glad we ended up back in the dugout,” said Faraimo, who was chased after giving up a homer in the third inning two runs away 4-0 “Holly I think had my back, and I think Lauren Shaw had my back too. We’re just prepared to get it done tomorrow.”

UCLA starting pitcher Megan Faraimo delivers in the first inning against Texas.

UCLA starting pitcher Megan Faraimo delivers in the first inning against Texas in the Women’s College World Series on Thursday.

(Alonzo Adams/Associated Press)

After years of relying on Rachel Garcia, the Bruins must turn to a versatile but inexperienced pitcher on the biggest stage. Prior to Thursday, Faraimo had only pitched a single inning at the famed softball mecca, and that was a blowout win in 2019. Azevedo’s World Series experience spanned four tournaments but only 6 2/3 innings, all in blowout situations. Shaw, a transfer from Iowa, had never advanced into the postseason before joining UCLA, and her relieved performance with two innings and two hits on Thursday was her first action in three weeks.

Texas’ Hailey Dolcini allowed six hits and two runs, which Delanie Wisz hit on a home run in the sixth inning. The UCLA catcher/third baseman has 14 RBIs in six postseason games, but their two-carry explosion came after the Bruins already fell into a seven-carry hole.

Dolcini tested UCLA with her riseball and screwball. Shortstop Briana Perez, who had a double in the first inning but was called home when she tried to score on a single to flat center field, said the Bruins are ready for the third-team All-American’s pitches but didn’t manage the ball as they needed it. The missed opportunities didn’t dampen the team’s confidence for Friday’s playoff.

“It’s not what happens, it’s what you do next,” Perez said. “I think this team is struggling a lot.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-06-02/ucla-softball-season-hangs-balance-world-series-opening-loss-texas UCLA softball upset by Texas in College World Series opener

Emma Bowman

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