(Photo: Michael Barron/WCSN)
It was a two-part affair Thursday night between the UCLA Bruins and Arizona State Sun Devils. The Bruins had three runs on eight hits before Arizona State even got its first runner on base. Then, the Sun Devils stormed back with a three-run fourth inning.
In the end, the No. 10 ranked UCLA Bruins beat No. 22 Arizona State 4-3 in the series opener.
Freshman pitcher Rachel Garcia had the winning hit, blasting a two-out solo home run to straight away center field in the seventh inning. The dinger broke a 3-3 tie, and was enough to give UCLA the win.
Garcia was solid in the circle too, pitching a complete seven innings allowing two earned runs on five hits and one walk, while striking out eight in the victory.
“Rachel Garcia is a phenomenal athlete,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “She, obviously, is a heck of a pitcher, one of the top in the nation.”
ASU’s junior starter, Breanna Macha, had a tougher time against the UCLA offense.
Macha was pulled after three innings in which she allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk, and allowed at least two runners to reach every inning.
“They’re a good hitting team, just hats off to them,” Macha said. “I threw some pitches that the coach and I both thought were some good pitches that they just got a good ball on.”
Despite the numbers, coach Ford thought Macha had a respectable outing.
“I think (Macha) did a great job of not allowing them to string (hits) together,” Ford said. “We’ll take a look at film tonight and see, but overall I don’t think Macha threw bad.”
Freshman Alyssa Loza came in to pitch in the fourth inning and allowed the last two of UCLA’s four runs. Loza ended up throwing the final four innings and allowed five hits and a walk, while getting ASU’s only strike out.
Things looked bleak for the Sun Devils starting in the third inning, when UCLA scored its first two runs on back-to-back RBI singles by Garcia and senior Gabrielle Maurice. This came after the Bruins already left runners in scoring position in the first two innings, and would’ve scored in the first had sophomore Skylar McCarty not thrown out junior Kylee Perez trying to run home.
The Sun Devils, meanwhile, still hadn’t got a runner on base. Garcia struck out five of the first nine batters she saw in a perfect first three innings.
Then, UCLA’s leadoff hitter, senior Delaney Spaulding, hit a solo home run in the fourth to increase the Bruins lead to three.
However, ASU got right back into the game in the bottom half of the inning.
Sophomore Taylor Becerra and McCarty started off with singles, setting up the heart of the order to do some damage.
Senior catcher Sashel Palacios brought home Becerra on a high line drive up the middle, and her and McCarty ended up on second and third, respectively, because of the throw home.
“It helped that I was able to come up with that single,” Palacios said. “But I think the girls before me being able to get on, kind of break up that no-hitter that she was throwing, kind of shifted the momentum to our side.”
Sophomore Fa Leilua followed the single with one of her own through the shortstop-third base gap. A fielding error by Maurice in left field allowed Palacios to score in addition to McCarty, and Leilua got to third.
However, the Sun Devils couldn’t bring her home, as junior Nichole Chilson’s blooper to shallow right center looked like it might do the trick, but Perez made a running backhanded catch.
After some scoreless innings, Garcia’s homer in the top of the seventh proved to be the winner, as it took her four batters to get through the bottom of the ASU lineup and close out the win.
ASU’s next game is against UCLA at 5 p.m. Friday in Tempe.