If there is one thing to know about UCLA softball pitcher Keira Goerl, it’s that she is a workhorse in the circle. In the biggest game of the season Monday, unhittable can be added to the description.
After the Bruins broke through with a run in the top of the ninth inning, Goerl finished off a no-hitter, and California, as UCLA won its record ninth NCAA championship with a 1-0 victory over the Golden Bears before an overflow crowd of 5,437 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
It was Goerl’s second no-hitter of the season but certainly the biggest one in her career. Goerl, who pitched in all six games of the Women’s College World Series, struck out only four and walked four but three were intentional to Cal star Veronica Nelson.
The Bears hit only four fly balls as the UCLA ace kept them off-balance. As Haley Woods’ fly ball settled into the glove of Stephanie Ramos in shallow center field for the final out, the Bruins erupted.
“I think it’s pretty amazing but it wasn’t about me,” Goerl said. “It was about the defense behind me that picked me up a number of times.”
The Bruins (54-7) got the run they needed in the ninth. Ramos set up the scoring opportunity with a ringing double off the left-field wall off Cal pitcher Kelly Anderson to open the inning.
Emily Zaplatosch moved Ramos to third with a sacrifice bunt. Toria Auelua, one of the Bruins’ four seniors, grounded a ball through the infield into left to bring Ramos home.
Auelua was one of the clutch hitters for UCLA in the tournament. The former Garden Grove Pacifica High player hit a home run Sunday in the Bruins’ 3-0 victory over Texas.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play and help my team,” Auelua said. “I was looking for the outside pitch and I planned to put it on the right side but it didn’t go that way.”
UCLA avenged a 7-3 extra-inning loss to Cal (49-20) in its first game in the tournament and became the second team to win the title after losing its opener. Goerl started all 10 postseason games for the Bruins and gave up only four earned runs in 71 innings.
The junior finished the year with a 40-7 record and 0.61 earned-run average.
“Honestly I believe Keira gets stronger as the games go on,” Auelua said. “The more innings she pitches, the better she gets. She just has to find her groove.”
It is the first championship in four years for the Bruins. It also keeps alive one streak in the program as this year’s team avoided being the first senior class to not win a national title.
Monday’s game received short shrift from ESPN.
The game was to be shown live at 1:30 p.m., after the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankee baseball game scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
But because the Red Sox-Yankee game at New York was delayed 1 hour 42 minutes by rain, it was only in the fifth inning at 1:30, and the Yankees’ Roger Clemens, bidding for his 300th victory, was still on the mound.
ESPN decided to show the softball game delayed, at 5 p.m.
Viewers tuning in to ESPN expecting to see the Bruins and Bears weren’t informed of this until about 2:15 p.m., when a graphic was put up on the screen. Game announcers Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe did not mention it before then.
ESPN could have been in an even worse fix had the New Jersey Nets not eliminated the Detroit Pistons in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals Saturday night. Game 5 was scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. on ESPN.
The softball game could not have been moved to ESPN2 because of a baseball game.
Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.