UCLA softball can’t counter perfect game by Alabama’s Montana Fouts in loss
Montana Fouts got the perfect birthday present.
Fouts, a junior, struck out 14 in front of a record crowd of 12,337 and propelled Alabama to its first win over UCLA in program history. While the third-seeded Crimson Tide won their 20th straight game to advance to Sunday’s national semifinal, the Bruins (47-6) must now fight through the losers’ bracket to defend their 2019 NCAA title.
Rachel Garcia pitched a shutout and Maya Brady delivered a home run during UCLA’s 4-0 win over FSU to open the Women’s College World Series on Thursday.
UCLA’s loss sets up a potential blockbuster matchup Saturday at 4 p.m. PDT as the Bruins will face the winner of a Saturday morning elimination game between No.1 seed Oklahoma and Georgia.
Fouts, the fifth pitcher with a perfect game in WCWS history, outdueled UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia, who gave up seven hits, five earned runs and three walks with just three strikeouts. A three-run homer by Alabama’s Kaylee Tow broke the game open in the fifth inning as the Crimson Tide (52-7) went up by five.
“We didn’t lose tonight because Rachel Garcia was not on her ‘A’ game,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “We lost because we didn’t play great defense and we didn’t make adjustments at the plate.”
Fouts, meanwhile, pitched the game of her life, striking out UCLA’s most feared hitters — Bubba Nickles, Garcia and Aaliyah Jordan — at the top of the lineup two times each. She fanned nine of the first 12 batters she faced.
Combined with her career-high 16 strikeouts in a first-round win over Arizona, the junior has 30 strikeouts and no walks in two WCWS games.
Offensive struggles spread to the defense in the sixth inning when typically sure-handed shortstop Briana Perez allowed the leadoff runner to reach on a throwing error and third baseman Delanie Wisz fielded a bunt that was close to rolling foul, which set up a sixth run, tied for the most given up by Garcia in a game this season.
While defensive lapses and a nonexistent offense marred Friday’s game for the Bruins, Garcia, an Olympian and one of just four players to win the USA Softball collegiate player of the year award multiple times, hasn’t looked like her dominant self in recent games.
Friday was the second time in four appearances that she gave up six runs, the first being in Game 1 of the Super Regional against Virginia Tech. The Bruins turned to redshirt sophomore Megan Faraimo to save the season in Game 2, when she pitched a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts.
As senior two-way softball star Rachel Garcia leads UCLA into another Women’s College World Series, she draws inspiration from mentor Lisa Fernandez.
UCLA doesn’t have that option now. Faraimo didn’t travel to Oklahoma City because of an injured right hand. Garcia, who threw a combined 317 pitches in the first two games, will take the circle again Saturday.
“I say bring it on,” Inouye-Perez said. “I’m going to give Rachel the ball, and we’re going to see just what this team is made of.”
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