Arizona Wildcats

UCLA Sweeps Arizona Softball

(Tucson, AZ) Kim Doss

When the Arizona-UCLA series started on Friday evening, Rachel Garcia hadn’t pitched in three weeks. UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez had used her redshirt sophomore strictly as a designated player for nine games, taking advantage of Garcia’s five home runs and .379 batting average.

By the time the Bruins put the finishing touch on their series sweep of the Wildcats, Garcia had dominated in the circle in all three games, added three home runs to her own hitting totals, and raised her batting average to over .400.

“She’s just really, really good. She’s very aggressive and competitive, so she knows her batters and she knows what she’s facing,” said Arizona freshman Ivy Davis. “Even when we made adjustments, she adjusted as well.”

The game started off rough for both Arizona pitcher Taylor McQuillin and her defense. A single by UCLA two-hole hitter Kylee Perez was followed by an error on third baseman Malia Martinez. With two on and only one out, Garcia stepped into the box and continued to do what she’d done all weekend.A 1-1 pitch promptly left the park, giving Garcia her eighth long ball of the season.

Although McQuillin sat down the next two batters to end the inning, the damage had been done. UCLA was up 3-0, and Arizona needed to come back against the #4 team in the nation yet again.

Ashleigh Hughes did her best to help the Wildcats accomplish that. Arizona’s leadoff hitter cut the UCLA lead to 3-1 when she clubbed the first pitch from Bruins pitcher Selina Ta’amilo over the fence.

Ta’amilo collected herself quickly. The next three Wildcat hitters were retired on a total of 10 pitches.

It appeared the McQuillin and her teammates had also collected themselves. The Bruins went down in order in the second inning, and the Wildcats returned to offense.

A one-out single by Dejah Mulipola gave Arizona a base runner. It looked like it might go to waste when Davis stepped in with two outs and a runner on first. After all, she only had 16 at-bats prior to Sunday’s game, and just one of those had produced an extra-base hit.

Davis was ready, though. On the first pitch of her at-bat, she belted her first career home run. The Wildcats had a reset, tying the game up 3-3.

That was the end of Ta’amilo’s evening. Garcia came in and put an end to the rally by striking out Jenna Kean.

With the score even, Arizona needed another strong inning from McQuillin to keep the momentum. UCLA had other ideas, though. They sent eight to the plate in the frame, and forced the Arizona coaching staff to make a pitching change.

The Bruins wrested control immediately when McQuillin hit Briana Perez to put the leadoff hitter on board. A Kylee Perez single and an RBI double by Aaliyah Jordan put UCLA back on top by one.

With no outs, two on and a base open, Arizona opted to take the bat out of Garcia’s hands. After three home runs in as many games, Garcia would be walked in her final three at-bats. Two of those walks were intentional.

The first intentional walk of Garcia didn’t do much to ease the danger. Stepping into the box with the bases loaded and no one out was Brianna Tautalafua, who entered the weekend’s series with seven home runs.

Tautalafua knocked in one run with an RBI single. Bubba Nickles followed, walking to force in another run. With two runs in and no outs, Candrea was forced to make the pitching change.

McQuillin finished the day with six runs. She surrendered five hits, two walks and a hit batter in two innings.

Alyssa Denham entered the game to face Madeline Jelenicki, who had raised her batting average by 68 points and her slugging percentage by 261 points since she arrived in Tucson.

Denham put an end to the threat. She induced the double play ball from Jelenicki, and then a groundout off the bat of Paige Halstead. The inning ended with UCLA leading 6-3.

Over the course of the game, the Wildcats’ offense produced several opportunities. They left five runners on base, were given extra outs on UCLA errors, and got home runs from unexpected sources.

Much like Saturday, however, they were unable to take advantage of those opportunities. Overly aggressive at-bats in crucial situations were often to blame.

Arizona’s best chance came in the bottom of the third. Hughes and Reyna Carranco led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Alyssa Palomino walked to load the bases with no outs.

Jessie Harper entered the batter’s box with a chance to close the gap or even take the lead. Three aggressive swings later, she was walking back to the dugout with a strike out.

Still, there was only one out. A double play ball off the bat of Martinez ended that. While the Wildcats would get two runners on in the seventh inning, this was the last real threat to UCLA’s dominance.

From that point on, it was all UCLA. The Bruins went on to score at least one run in every inning except the fifth to reach the final score of 10-3.

After two straight series sweeps, Arizona stands at 6-9 in the PAC-12 and 27-12 overall. They hope to get back to their winning ways ways when they play a doubleheader against New Mexico State on Wednesday.

Candrea worries that they might not be able to pull out of their slump because of the inability to compete consistently.

“I’ve tried about everything from being nice to them to getting in their face. I thought we had a really good discussion last night. I thought we were going to go out and play the game well. And we started off that way, but the minute…the minute something happens, we just kind of have a hard time competing the way we need to,” he said.

“I think that’s my biggest thing right now. Right now, we’re competing against ourselves, not competing against the opposing team, and for many reasons—some physically, some mentally and some emotionally. That’s the combination you have to have. Right now, we’re just kind of…every kid is just all over the place.”

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