Arizona softball falls to UCLA 8-7, drops series
Arizona softball looked to steal a huge series victory on Monday night against UCLA, but fell to the Bruins 8-7.
After splitting the first two games, the Bruins led the Wildcats by a half game in the conference standings heading into Monday, making the contest a chance for both teams to push themselves ahead in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
Nancy Bowling started for the Wildcats, who came out playing aggressive behind their fiery pitcher. Bowling worked a clean first inning and got some early run support in the bottom half of the inning.
Mandie Perez earned a leadoff walk and got all the way to third base on a throwing error. After reaching second on the error, Perez once again caught a defense napping and stole third, firing up the Hillenbrand Stadium crowd.
Offensive leader Katiyana Mauga batted next and drilled a single into right field driving in Perez to make it 1-0. UCLA starter Johanna Grauer was relieved after only recording one out, and the Wildcats added one more run on a bases loaded walk to lead 2-0 after one inning.
Mauga struck again in the second inning hitting her 17th home run of the season — a two-run shot that extended the Wildcats’ lead to 4-0. Mauga started the series 0-5, but hit safely in her next four at-bats, including two home runs.
In just her third start of the year, Bowling took advantage of the opportunity to face UCLA. She surrendered one earned run on three hits during her 3.1 innings of work, and struck out two. Freshman Taylor McQuillin came in relief.
McQuillin came into the game in the fourth and was unable to escape the inning without letting up any runs. She only allowed one run, and it would have been more without a fantastic play from shortstop Mo Mercado.
With two outs, a ground ball took a rough hop after hitting off McQuillin’s glove, and Mercado had to change direction behind the circle to make a difficult barehanded play that saved a run.
McQuillin came out in the fifth inning and recorded a quick out, but hit UCLA’s Delaney Spaulding. She then gave up a two-run home run to the next batter.
Arizona opted to re-enter starter Bowling after she had only been out of the game for three outs.
UCLA made it back-to-back home runs when Madeline Jelenicki hit one into the stands in left to tie the score at 4-4. Bowling gave up a double to the next batter, and head coach Mike Candrea opted to enter Michelle Floyd, who had pitched just 10 innings on the season in six appearances.
“We wanted to try and keep them off balance tonight with some new looks,” Candrea said. “I felt we could not run our two lefties out there again tonight.”
Floyd got the first batter to fly out to right field, but made a mistake to UCLA’s Paige Halstead. Halstead crushed a two-strike delivery from Floyd and gave the Bruins a 6-4 lead.
It was UCLA’s third home run in the fifth inning.
In what had been a wild back and forth series, Monday proved no different, as the Wildcats re-captured the lead in the bottom of the fifth. After a walk and a single, Lauren Young came up to the plate with a chance to drive in the runners on first and second.
Young did more than that, hitting a go ahead three-run home run that gave the Wildcats a 7-6 lead.
Candrea finally opted to bring in ace Danielle O’Toole in the sixth inning. O’Toole surrendered a lead-off single, and the second batter of the inning reached on an error, putting the junior in a quick jam.
The Bruins kept up with the game’s frantic pace and stole the lead back with a bases-clearing double. The double made the score 8-7, marking the third lead change of the game.
Arizona threatened in the sixth with the tying run on second base, but was unable to come through. In their last chance in the seventh, the Wildcats went down in order and fell 8-7.
“Tough one,” Candrea said. “I like the way we’re playing, kids are competing hard and we have to turn the page; we have Oregon coming up. We’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.”
Arizona resumes play this weekend in Eugene, Oregon, against the Oregon Ducks. Game one is on Friday and is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Follow Daily Wildcat Sports on Twitter