The challenge facing softball pitcher Ally Carda in an NCAA super regional was shutting down a Missouri team that entered the weekend having hit 75 home runs. On Saturday and Sunday, though, Carda made the most of her final two outings at Easton Stadium, and her teammates showed their own hitting prowess in sweeping the best two-out-of-three series in Los Angeles.
After rallying from a three-run deficit and winning the opener on Saturday, the seventh-seeded Bruins hit three home runs Sunday in building an eight-run lead. And Carda pitched out of a jam in the sixth inning as UCLA prevailed, 10-6, in Game 2. That earned the team a matchup against Pac-12 rival Oregon in the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
"It was exciting, and I thought about it a little before the game that it's my last one," Carda said after allowing four earned runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts to improve to 31-6 this season. "In the bottom of the sixth, it was all about staying mentally tough. We know they are going to do everything they can to score, and it's up to me to stay dialed in on every pitch."
UCLA tied the score on Mysha Sataraka's RBI single in the top of the second inning, then Gabrielle Maurice scored on an error to put the Bruins (50-10) ahead for good. Delaney Spaulding followed with a two-run homer, her 20th of the season, to make it 4-1. In the third, Sataraka clouted another two-run homer (her seventh of the year), and in the fourth Stephany LaRosa blasted a three-run homer (her 19th) to increase UCLA's lead to 9-1.
"That's the benefit of hosting, is that we get to play before our fans, family, friends and alumni," Spaulding said. "It's huge. They were chanting; we hear them and it pumps us up. It hasn't hit me yet that we're going to the World Series. I'm just living in the moment."
Kelsea Roth hit two home runs and Emily Crane and Amanda Sanchez each added two hits and one RBI for the 10th-seeded Tigers (42-16). Freshman left-hander Paige Lowary (18-7) was dealt her second defeat in as many days, allowing seven runs on eight hits with four walks and two strikeouts in five innings.
"I'm proud of my team for fighting — it's an earmark of our program," Missouri Coach Ehren Earleywine said. "We didn't pitch our best when we needed our best, and give credit to UCLA — they were just better."
Freshman Selena Ta'amilo relieved Carda in the seventh inning, striking out Morgan Walters, getting Natalie Fleming to ground out and striking out Taylor Gadbois to end the game.
"It was awesome to see that," Carda said. "Selena having my back makes a huge difference, and our bats were hot."
Missouri loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first and Sanchez singled up the middle to score Gadbois, but Carda induced a pop fly to shortstop and struck out Kirsten Mack and Roth to escape further damage. Carda led off the top of the sixth with a double and scored on LaRosa's fly to right, her fourth RBI of the game, to give UCLA a 10-2 lead.
"It's rewarding to have a team that learns as the season goes on and we're playing our best ball," UCLA Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. "As you saw today, we don't rely on one person, and we do whatever it takes to win. I like how this team responds. You have to be able to come right back when your opponent throws a punch, and we did that."