'We're here to play': Mary Iakopo homers, leads Texas past No. 5 UCLA in WCWS opener

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Mike White didn’t make the same mistake twice.

The Texas head softball coach found himself in hot water during a Big 12 Tournament semifinal game against Oklahoma State on May 13. After being ejected for sarcastically clapping at an umpire while arguing a call, White turned around before entering the dugout and flipped off umpire Naomi Erdahl.

White was reprimanded by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby after the game, and he issued an apology to Erdahl soon afterward.

So when a similar situation presented itself during Texas’ 7-2 win over No. 5-seeded UCLA in Thursday’s opening round of the Women’s College World Series at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, White made sure to handle it differently.

The two teams were still scoreless in the top of the third inning when Texas’ Janae Jefferson sent a ground ball down the first-base line. A UCLA infielder scooped the ball up and tossed it to first base only to watch it sail into the outfield.

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Texas catcher Mary Iakopo (33) is greeted by her team at home plate after hitting a home run in the third inning of a Women's College World Series game against UCLA on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Oklahoma City.

One run scored as the Texas supporters in the crowd rose to their feet, but their celebration was short-lived. A five-minute review resulted in the umpires calling runner interference on Jefferson, which took the Longhorns’ run off the board. 

White received news of the ruling from an umpire as boos from Texas’ fans hailed down. Rather than losing his cool, he simply nodded his head and returned to the dugout.

“I would have to say I learned from my history,” White said. “It’s not going to do me any good.”

Texas’ players didn’t waste time arguing either.

Mia Scott let her hitting do the talking on the next at-bat with an RBI triple, and Alyssa Washington brought her home right afterward with an RBI single to push the lead to 2-0.

The final statement came courtesy of Mary Iakopo, who stepped into a pitch and sent a deep bomb over the wall in left field for a two-run home run. It marked her 50th career homer.

“On to the next,” Iakopo said of the interference call. “I was swinging away no matter where it was pitched. It just felt good to help out my team and help out my pitching staff in any way.”

Scott struck again in the following inning with an RBI single that extended Texas’ lead to 5-0, and Bella Dayton piled it on with a two-run homer in the sixth.

Hailey Dolcini kept the Longhorns in control from inside the circle. 

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Aside from a two-run home run by UCLA’s Delanie Wisz in the sixth, the senior pitcher held off the Bruins in a complete outing. She finished with six allowed hits and two strikeouts to secure Texas’ win.

“(Dolcini) was able to make small adjustments,” White said. “A lot of pitchers try to make adjustments and they make them in feet when you only needed to make them in inches. That’s what she was able to do, and that’s why she’s tough.”

Scott led the Longhorns at the plate with a pair of RBIs and one run on 4-for-4 hitting. Wisz led the Bruins with two RBIs and one run on 2-for-3 hitting.

"Do they have a chip? Yeah, I think they do," White said. "Like Mary mentioned, it's been a tough year. Not a lot of things have gone our way, to tell you the truth, but they've kept their head about them. It's not an excuse. It's one of our mantras, is no excuses, no regrets, and we're here to play. It's fun."

Texas advances to face Oklahoma on Saturday at 2 p.m. UCLA will face Northwestern on Friday at 6 p.m. in an elimination game.

“At the end of the day, we need to adjust, and we did,” UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “To be able to get on the board and not give up is a sign of what great teams do. We have to get everybody dialed in.”

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NCAA softball scoreboard

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