'She's just a straight dog': Megan Faraimo lifts UCLA past Northwestern in WCWS elimination game
UCLA pitcher Megan Faraimo dug herself into a hole.
The No. 5-seeded Bruins kept their season alive Friday with a 6-1 win over No. 9 Northwestern in a Women’s College World Series elimination game at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. But the victory didn’t come without a late scare in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Wildcats trimmed the deficit to 2-1 via an RBI double by Grace Nieto, and they ultimately loaded the bases with two outs as Rachel Lewis stepped up to the plate.
Faraimo, who walked the previous batter, struggled to dial it in.
Her first three tosses to Lewis landed outside the strike zone, and each ball fed into a frenzied Wildcats crowd that was now on its feet.
Faraimo delivered the fourth pitch, a bullet that went straight up the middle while Lewis opted not to swing.
Lewis didn’t bite on the next pitch either, and it also found the zone to make it a 3-2 count.
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With the tension building, Faraimo calmly wiped some sweat from her face and went back into the pitching motion. She sent a yellow blur in the direction of Lewis, who froze as it landed in the glove of catcher Delanie Wisz for the third strike.
"I just told myself to throw strikes," Faraimo said. "I felt like no matter what, whether (Lewis) gets a hit or whether I get her, my teammates were going to have my back either way. I just wanted to get us back in the dugout."
Faraimo’s heroics carried over to the following inning. The redshirt junior stepped up to the plate as UCLA’s leadoff hitter and she stepped into the second pitch she saw from Danielle Williams.
The ball never recovered.
Faraimo sent a deep bomb into left field for a solo home run that extended the lead to 3-1. UCLA then tacked on another three runs in the seventh inning via RBI singles from Alyssa Garcia, Anna Vines and Thessa Malau’ulu.
Northwestern got runners on first and second base in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Faraimo came through once more. She secured the final out by getting Skyler Shellmyer to ground out.
Faraimo finished with 10 strikeouts and five allowed hits in a complete game. She also went 1-for-2 at the plate for one RBI and one run.
"When Megan's back is against the wall, that's when the fiercest competitor comes out," Wisz said. "She's just a straight dog. I'm just so happy and blessed to be able to catch her."
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After losing its WCWS opener to Texas on Thursday, UCLA will have its back against the wall for the remainder of the double-elimination tournament.
The Bruins advance to face the loser of No. 14 Florida and No. 7 Oklahoma State in an elimination game on Sunday at 2 p.m.
"We have a strong belief that we can," UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. "The girls are fit, they're strong, they're prepared and we're a little feisty right now."
Meanwhile, Northwestern's season comes to an end after reaching its first WCWS since 2007.
"This team is one of a kind," Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan said. "It was an honor to coach them, and I just loved seeing them every day."