UCLA picked a bad time for a bad game.
Unseeded Texas thumped the fifth-seeded Bruins in the opener of the Women’s College World Series on Thursday, sending the Bruins into the losers bracket with a 7-2 loss at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
It ended an eight-game winning streak for the Bruins, who fell short at the plate, where they put runners in scoring position only twice, and in the circle, where their vaunted pitching staff gave up two two-run homers.
“They executed. We didn’t. We didn’t deserve to win the game today,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “But I believe that my team will punch back.”
UCLA (48-9) will fight for its season Friday against No. 1 seed Oklahoma or Northwestern at 4 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Both teams have already beaten UCLA this season, with the Sooners handing UCLA a 4-1 loss Feb. 12 and Northwestern winning an eight-inning thriller one week later at the St. Pere Clearwater Elite Invitational.
Despite the rocky early season, the Bruins seemed to be peaking entering their seventh consecutive World Series appearance. They went undefeated in the regional and super regional rounds. They outscored opponents 39-7.
Then Texas (44-19-1) matched the total runs allowed in UCLA’s five postseason games in three innings.
The Longhorns, who were making their first World Series appearance since 2013, scored the most runs in a World Series game in program history. And it came against UCLA’s pitching staff that ranks second in the country in ERA (1.38).
Pac-12 pitcher of the year Megan Faraimo and Holly Azevedo, UCLA’s first pair of 20-win pitchers since 2002, gave up 11 hits, including one two-run homer each, while combining to strike out just three.
“Obviously, I didn’t execute the way I would want to, but I’m just glad that we got back in the dugout eventually,” said Faraimo, who was chased after giving up a two-run homer in the third inning to trail 4-0. “Holly, I think, had my back, and I think Lauren Shaw also had my back. We’re just prepared to get after it tomorrow.”
After relying on Rachel Garcia for years, the Bruins must turn to a well-rounded but inexperienced pitching staff on the biggest stage. Before Thursday, Faraimo had pitched only a single inning in the famed softball Mecca and that was in a blowout win in 2019. Azevedo’s World Series experience spanned four tournaments, but only 6 2/3 innings pitched, all in blowout situations. Shaw, a transfer from Iowa, had never advanced to the postseason before coming to UCLA and her two-inning, two-hit appearance in relief Thursday was her first action in three weeks.
Texas’ Hailey Dolcini allowed six hits and two runs, which came on a home run from Delanie Wisz in the sixth inning. The UCLA catcher/third baseman has 14 RBIs in six postseason games, but her two-run blast came after the Bruins had already fallen into a seven-run hole.
Dolcini tested UCLA with her riseball and screwball. Shortstop Briana Perez, who had a double in the first inning but was called out at home trying to score on a single to shallow center field, said the Bruins were ready for the third-team All-American’s pitches, but didn’t get on top of the ball like they needed to. The missed opportunities haven’t dampened the team’s confidence heading into Friday’s elimination game.
“It’s not what happens, it’s what you do next,” Perez said. “I think this team has a lot of fight.”