Softball Wildcats fall to UCLA on Saturday, game two Sunday 2 p.m.
Arizona opened up its biggest series of the season against UCLA on Saturday.
With Arizona and UCLA at No. 17 and No. 15 respectively, the series is important to both teams in the conference, as well as the national rankings. The winner of the series will likely solidify themselves within the top 16 of the rankings, ensuring home field advantage in at least the regionals, and would likely move up in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
In a back-and-forth battle in game one, UCLA managed to break through late and earn an opening game victory.
Redshirt junior Danielle O’Toole started game one for Arizona moved to (18-7) on the season. She gave up seven earned runs on a season high twelve hits, and struck out five.
O’Toole ran in to trouble in the first and second innings, but was able to escape without the Bruins adding any runs. After a single to lead the game off from UCLA’s Allexis Bennett, O’Toole struck out the next batter she faced.
Bennett stole second on a controversial call where it looked like the throw from Wildcat catcher Lauren Young beat Bennett to second base. Bennett advanced to third on a fly out, but O’Toole got a two-out strikeout to get out of the jam.
After retiring the first two batters she faced in the second, O’Toole gave up a single that hit off the top of the wall and a double to put runners on second and third with two outs.
She induced a groundout to shortstop Mo Mercado to hold the Bruins scoreless, but they would break through in the third inning. Head coach Mike Candrea was pleased with O’Toole’s effort on Saturday, even though it did not result in a win.
“She’s given us great performances all year, but tonight she second guessed herself and she didn’t need to,” Candrea said. “She has better stuff than she thinks. She’ll be back.”
Following a great play from O’Toole who throw a runner out at third, Mysha Sataraka hit a two-out RBI double off the wall to drive in the game’s first run. Sataraka was driven in by the next UCLA batter to make it 2-0 Bruins.
Arizona responded in the bottom half of the inning, getting two leadoff singles from Eva Watson and Mandie Perez to put two runners out with no one on for the second consecutive inning. Two pop outs and a wild pitch later, the Wildcats had runners on second third with two out.
Mo Mercado hit a sharp ground ball to UCLA shortstop Delaney Spaulding whose throw was high, plating Watson and Perez. Tamara Statman singled to center field driving in Mo Mercado to make it 3-2 Arizona after three.
UCLA would strike back in the fifth to tie the game at four apiece. After O’Toole issued a walk, UCLA’s Sataraka came to the plate again. She crushed a line drive off of the batter’s eye to knot the game up.
The Bruins scored again in the sixth and started off the inning with two infield singles. Leadoff batter Allexis Bennett came to the plate looking to move both runners over with a sacrifice. She popped out to Lauren Young, but both runners advanced. O’Toole proceeded to hit the next batter to load up the bases, ending her start.
Freshman Taylor McQuillin came in to the game in an incredibly difficult spot, and gave up a back breaking grand slam to UCLA’s Delaney Spaulding, making the score 8-4 UCLA.
Lauren Young made it interesting in the bottom half of the sixth inning, driving in Krist and herself with a two run home run that made it 8-6.
The next three Wildcats went down in order though, and they never threatened again, falling 8-6.
Candrea remained confident his team can bounce back after the tough loss.
“Hard fought game, we just made some mistakes that ended up costing us,” said Candrea. “It’s time to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow, that’s what we need to do. I like where we’re at and how we’re playing right now but to win big ball games there is a fine line.”
The series continues on Sunday with game two at 2:00 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.
Follow Daily Wildcat Sports on Twitter.