'We fear no one': After run-rule win vs. Florida, UCLA set to face OU in WCWS semifinals
Savannah Pola called game.
On Sunday afternoon in the bottom of the sixth inning, Pola, UCLA’s right fielder, smacked a pitch over second base and deep into centerfield. As teammates Maya Brady and Delanie Wisz touched home plate, the inevitable became official.
UCLA was moving on.
After leading the entire game, No. 5 UCLA defeated Florida in run-rule fashion 8-0, advancing to the semifinal round and eliminating the Gators from the Women’s College World Series.
“The emotions that ended the game were crazy,” said Holly Azevedo, UCLA’s starting pitcher. “When (Pola) got that double, I was going crazy alongside all the girls in the dugout. Then just having that moment with everyone just dumping water on me.”
Two at-bats before Pola’s walk-off, Brady drove two runs in with a bases loaded double that whizzed between the first and second bases. It inflated the Bruins lead to six shortly before Pola ended the game.
After struggling to get hits early in the game, the Bruins adjusted the second time through the lineup and finished with eight.
“I think that we just decided that we weren’t going to let the change-up be a factor anymore,” Brady said. “Our team definitely gets stronger throughout every single at-bat, and we kind of all take things from each other.”
Besides UCLA finding consistent offense, the Gators injured themselves with several miscues.
In the fourth inning, Florida shortstop Skylar Wallace bobbled an easy groundball from UCLA pinch-hitter Seneca Curo, resulting in a run scoring.
Two batters later, a chopping, hard-hit groundball off UCLA’s Briana Perez’s bat again targeted Wallace. Blinded by a runner taking off from second base, Wallace misplayed the ball. It rolled toward the outfield and two more runs slid across home plate.
Three runs scored off balls that didn’t leave the infield.
The Gators weren’t without some defensive gems too, with left fielder Katie Kistler robbing a home run from UCLA in the third inning.
“Just didn’t have any answers offensively,” Florida coach Tim Walton said.
UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez consistently emphasized defense throughout the season, and it showed up from the Bruins on Sunday.
Behind Azevedo — who tossed a complete game, allowing two hits and striking out two — the UCLA defense accounted for 16 of the 18 outs, the lone error being a throw to first on a bunt.
“That was the name of the game, defense today,” Inouye-Perez said. “So super proud.”
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The Bruins will now face top-seeded Oklahoma in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Monday, needing to beat the Sooners twice to advance to the championship series.
Last season, the Sooners eliminated the Bruins in the loser’s bracket en route to winning their fifth national title.
In last season’s game, Azevedo entered the game in the sixth inning with the Bruins trailing five runs. She allowed two hits and two runs in two-thirds of an inning, before OU officially eliminated the Bruins a half-inning later.
“Obviously, they’re an incredible team all around, but I think for us something that I think that this team has gone through this year would be adversity,” Brady said. “I think that it has only made us stronger.”
Brady went 2-for-4 against the Sooners in the WCWS last season. Azevedo didn’t add to Brady’s remarks, but agreed with everything Brady said about Monday’s game.
“I know that I have 23 sisters that are going to have my back throughout the whole game and I’m not doing it alone,” Brady said. “I think that it’s just a really amazing opportunity on the biggest stage with this team.”
Inouye-Perez also kept the focus on the Bruins. She used the Bruins loss to Texas on the first day of the tournament as an example of the fight the team has shown.
“The biggest opponent we have is ourselves,” Inouye-Perez said. “If we can put ourselves in a position to play our game, the opponent, that is definitely respect. “We respect everyone, we fear no one.”