OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)Rachel Garcia threw a five-hitter and struck out 11 as UCLA beat Florida State 4-0 on Thursday night in the Women’s College World Series opener for both teams.
Garcia, a U.S. Olympian and two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, threw 80 of her 112 pitches for strikes.
Florida State got runners to second base in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings. Even when it appeared things could unravel, Garcia was calm, as usual.
”It’s not necessarily a heightened situation for us,” she said. ”I mean, I know my team’s going to have my back.”
UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said the Bruins refocused and got better.
”It allows you to be able to play your best ball if you can slow down and really find your feet, take a big, deep breath and go,” she said. ”We took a bunch of those tonight. We had to slow it down, make sure we could get to the next pitch because it was a little frustrating how we came out. They came out and executed their game plan and we didn’t.”
UCLA’s Maya Brady hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to provide insurance runs for the second-seeded Bruins (47-5), who will play No. 3 Alabama in a winners bracket game on Friday. Florida State (44-11-1) will play Arizona in an elimination game on Saturday.
The game matched the past two national champions. Florida State won in 2018 and UCLA in 2019.
Florida State pitcher Kathryn Sandercock allowed one run through five innings before getting into trouble in the sixth. Danielle Watson replaced Sandercock, and Brady – the first batter Watson faced – hit one over the fence in center field.
Sydney Sherrill said Sandercock did her job.
”She pitched an amazing game today,” Sherrill said. ”Some lucky hits here and there. That was the difference. But she pitched amazing. Props to her. She’s an amazing pitcher.”
Florida State’s offense didn’t support Sandercock’s effort.
”I mean, I think up at the plate we did battle,” Sherrill said. ”We had some really good at-bats throughout our lineup. Like I said, we did get the hits, but we just didn’t piece them together, which sometimes, that’s the game. It stinks.”
The Bruins also had a rough time at the plate before breaking through late. In the fifth, UCLA’s Kinsley Washington singled and advanced to second on a throwing error. Anna Vines singled and knocked Washington in for the game’s first run.
In the sixth, Delanie Wisz had an RBI double before Brady homered.
”I love how this team finds a way to make adjustments,” Inouye-Perez said. ”Their will to win and their ego aside to do whatever it takes to win a ballgame. We got to see that literally one through nine, everybody made an adjustment tonight. Super proud.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.