Oklahoma, UCLA Wins Highlight WCWS Day 2 Action
OKLAHOMA CITY – The stage was set for an epic Friday night in Oklahoma City: a battle between softball's most historic programs and the first-ever Bedlam matchup at the Women's College World Series.
In front of a record-setting crowd of 9,820 at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, the play on the field lived up to the hype.
Game 1 of the night saw UCLA take down conference-foe Arizona with a late-game surge that led the Bruins to a 6–2 win over the Wildcats, while Oklahoma defeated its own conference foe Oklahoma State, 6–1, in Game 2.
To recap the winners' bracket night that was, here are our top five takeaways from Friday at the Women's College World Series.
A Deceiving Final Score
Through the first five innings of Friday’s matchup between Pac-12 powerhouses UCLA and Arizona, the contest was shaping up to become a Women’s College World Series classic. Diving catches, clutch hits, a pitcher’s duel between Arizona’s Taylor McQuillin and UCLA's National Player of the Year Rachel Garcia through much of the game; it had everything fans could ask for between two of the country’s most storied programs.
The game was tied at one after five full frames, before Malia Quarles’ sixth-inning blast put the Bruins ahead by one run. UCLA then scored four insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning, which was highlighted by an RBI double from Aaliyah Jordan and a costly two-run error by Arizona that ultimately put the game too far out of reach for the Wildcats.
"I just think the moment got a little quick on us," Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. "If you look at that inning, we have a relay that had an opportunity to throw a runner out, didn't do it. We had a fly ball to right field, had a chance to throw a runner out, we didn't do it. Then the dropped fly ball. You can't make mistakes like that at this level, in a game of this stature."
With the Bruins' win on Friday, they advance to Sunday's national semifinal for the second straight season, while Arizona awaits the winner of Florida and Alabama for an elimination matchup on Saturday.
Oklahoma Came Out Swinging
The Sooners got the hometown crowd buzzing right out of the gate, as they scored three runs on four hits off of Cowgirl stud ace Sam Show in the top of the first inning. A Jocelyn Alo two-RBI single got the scoring started for Oklahoma, which was followed by a run-producing single from Shay Knighten—her first RBI of the postseason—to give the Sooners an early 3–0 advantage. Oklahoma State would respond with a run of its own in the bottom half of the frame, but the scoring would stall until the top of the sixth, when two bases-loaded walks and a hit-by-pitch gave the Sooners a 6–1 advantage.
With their victory on Friday, the Sooners move on to Sunday's semifinal. Oklahoma State will next take on the winner of Washington and Minnesota in an elimination game on Saturday.
UCLA’s Unlikely Hero
Quarles’ pinch-hit solo shot in the sixth inning was the hit of the night for UCLA against Arizona. The sophomore, who had just 34 at-bats this season entering Friday's game, sent a full-count pitch into the left-center field bleachers to lead off the Bruins’ half of the sixth.
Quarles, a sub-.200 hitter as a freshman last year, was perhaps one of the game’s unlikeliest heroes. But the game doesn’t know who, on paper, should step up in big moments.
"If you saw her practice, it's not that hard [to believe]," UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said about Quarles following her team's win over Arizona. "A lot of her balls leave the park. She has a lot of power."
In addition to her proven power in practice, Quarles had been there and done that before. Her sixth-inning blast marked the third time this season she’d sent a ball out of the park in a pinch-hitting situation.
It's Hard To Beat A Good Team Four Times, But Oklahoma Is Just That Good
The sign of a truly dominant team in sports is often its ability to beat another great team three times in one season. But for Oklahoma, four was the magic number on Friday, as the Sooners defeated Oklahoma State for the fourth time this year.
Giselle "G" Juarez was dominant for Oklahoma in the circle, tossing six innings and recording 11 strikeouts.
Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza’s Bat Came To Life
After Arizona’s win over Washington to open play in Oklahoma City on Thursday, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza was disappointed by her performance at the plate. Despite making a potential game-saving catch in center field, Palomino-Cardoza went 0-for-3 on the day against the Huskies. But the redshirt junior’s bat came to life on Friday, as she went 2-for-3 with two monster home runs versus UCLA, which accounted for the Wildcats’ only runs of the game.
"Just keeping it simple and getting back to my game and keeping my hands short to the ball," Palomino-Cardoza said, "I think that was really successful for me."
Palomino-Cardoza's two home runs on Friday move her career mark to 53, which affords her sole possession of the 12th best total in Arizona softball history.