UCLA cools off Hawaii in Women’s CWS
OKLAHOMA CITY – After an uncharacteristic four-year absence at the end of the Women’s College World Series, UCLA is inching back toward the top spot it once occupied as college softball’s original powerhouse.
Andrea Harrison tied a World Series record with her third home run, Samantha Camuso and Julie Burney also homered and UCLA outslugged Hawaii 5-2 on Friday night to advance in the winners’ bracket.
“The Bruins, they’re are on a mission,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “They’re on a mission.”
It was a sad day for the UCLA community, with the death of John Wooden, who built college basketball’s greatest dynasty with the Bruins.
“I’m just fortunate to say that I got to meet him and be a part of his world and be able to say that he was part of the softball world,” Inouye-Perez said.
The UCLA softball dynasty had stalled in recent years. The Bruins’ current four-year run without an appearance in the championship round amounts to a significant drought. In the first 24 years of the World Series, the Bruins never went back-to-back seasons without being one of the final two teams standing – winning 11 championships, including one that was vacated, and losing seven times.
Since then, the Bruins have been notably absent late in the World Series.
In Inouye-Perez’s first three seasons after replacing Sue Enquist as coach, UCLA didn’t even make it to the World Series twice – losing in the regionals in 2007 and the super regionals last year.
But behind national player of the year finalist Megan Langenfeld, the Bruins are back – or at least close to getting there.
“We’ve never lowered our standards,” Inouye-Perez said. “We have the capability. Anything less than a championship, we fall short because that’s something that we feel we’re capable of.
“The difference is the road map is a lot more difficult.”
Tennessee, the No. 15 seed, also moved within one win of the championship series with a 7-5 win against Georgia.
A string of upsets in the NCAA tournament and the World Series have suggested a greater amount of parity in college softball. No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 2 seed Michigan were upset in the super regionals, and all four higher seeds lost on the opening day of the World Series.
UCLA, the No. 5 seed, became the first favorite to win by overpowering NCAA home run record-holder Hawaii. The 16th-seeded Rainbow Wahine (50-15) came in with 156 home runs but got outslugged by a Bruins team that had won its previous three games by the mercy rule.
Camuso hit a two-run homer in the second inning as the Bruins (47-11) chased starter Stephanie Ricketts (30-9) after she had gotten only three outs. Burney and Harrison added solo home runs for the Bruins.
Harrison, who hit two three-run homers a day earlier, tied a record for home runs in a single World Series held by six other players.
Alexandra Aguirre provided Hawaii’s offense with a two-run homer in the fourth after fouling off 14 straight pitches by Langenfeld (13-1). The Rainbow Wahine, who came in averaging an NCAA-best 7.7 runs, will face either Arizona or Washington in an elimination game Saturday night.
“We just didn’t make adjustments early enough and often enough to get runners on and play Hawaii softball,” said coach Bob Coolen, whose team has been on the road for 25 straight days in reaching its first World Series.
UCLA will need only one win in two chances Sunday to reach the best-of-three championship series. The Bruins have reached the championship round in 12 of the 13 times they’ve won their first two games at the World Series.
“UCLA tradition is to be here at this time, the biggest stage,” Langenfeld said. “Because we had missed that, we felt so sick to our stomach. We didn’t ever want to ever feel like that. We didn’t want to let it slip away like we had the previous couple years.”
Because of their struggles, these Bruins have a completely different set of experiences to draw from than any other UCLA squad. But the combination of World Series experience from two years ago and two seasons of heartbreak have proven to be a dangerous mix.
“The girls are really believing what they’re capable of doing, and there’s nothing more powerful for us than to be like this as this point in the season,” Inouye-Perez said.
“They’re experienced, they’ve learned, they’re accountable. I’m following them. It’s just fun to watch.”
Tennessee 7, Georgia 5
Erinn Webb hit her second career grand slam and Tennessee held off a late rally by its SEC rival.
The Lady Vols (49-13) never scored more than four runs in a game during three World Series trips with Monica Abbott, the NCAA’s career leader wins and strikeouts. But this is a far different team.
With freshmen making up more than half the roster, Tennessee is manufacturing runs in bunches. The Lady Vols used the mercy rule in beating Arizona 9-0 in their opener, then jumped out to an early seven-run lead against the sixth-seeded Bulldogs (49-12).
A series of wild pitches by Georgia starter Sarah McCloud (13-2) and reliever Erin Arevalo in the second brought in the first two runs for Tennessee. Webb broke it open in the third by smacking the first pitch from Alison Owen just over the right-field fence. Webb’s only other grand slam came against Georgia in March.
Ashley Razey led the Bulldogs’ comeback bid with an RBI single in the fifth and a three-run home run off of freshman Ivy Renfroe (31-4) in the seventh.
Georgia will face either Missouri or Florida in an elimination game Saturday night.
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