May 30, 2010

By Jonathan Raber
Special to

LOS ANGELES - The hot-hitting UCLA Bruins weren't about to leave anything to chance, making sure to do what they do best - end things early.

A seven-run second inning was more than enough offense as the fifth-seeded Bruins coasted to a mercy-rule 10-2 victory in five innings over Louisiana-Lafayette in Saturday's NCAA Division I softball Super Regional opener.

It marked the 19th time this season that UCLA won a shortened affair, trying a school record set in 2001.

"At this point in the season, I'm not surprised," said UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez of her team's productive bats. "It's a mentality, and their ability to execute the plan is something this team has been able to do."

GiOnna DiSalvatore's solo homer to lead off the fifth inning ended things early and sent the Bruins to within one win of advancing to the Women's College World Series.

The best-of-three series continues Sunday at 4 p.m., with an if-necessary game to follow.

DiSalvatore and No. 7 hitter Samantha Camuso each finished a triple shy of the cycle and both knocked in three runs apiece to carry the load.

UCLA finished with three home runs as part of their 12-hit attack, which saw the team build an 8-2 edge after two innings.

"It's always our plan - strike early and often," Camuso said.

They did just that.

After watching the Cajuns grab a one-run lead in the top of the second, the Bruins demoralized their opposition with the seven-run outburst in the bottom half.

Camuso supplied much of the damage by driving in three runs in the frame as UCLA sent 12 batters to the plate. The sophomore right fielder belted her 12th home run of the season, a deep shot to right to open the scoring.

DiSalvatore followed with a two-run double and came around to score along with Monica Harrison on a fielding error by second baseman Kelly Cormier.

Camuso later closed out the scoring with a two-run double for the 8-2 advantage as all of the damage came off of Lafayette starter Donna Bourgeois.

"They were just ready to attack," said Cajuns coach Stefni Lotief of the Bruins.

Bourgeois was uncharacteristically off the mark in the loss. She entered having won six straight starts, including five complete game shutouts, but was shelled in this one.

"For her to come out here and give up a big inning like that was very surprising," Lotief said. "But obviously the ball wasn't spinning enough to keep it from being hard hit."

At that point things were all but decided as UCLA's Aleah Macon settled down after a shaky start to keep the Cajuns off the board over the final three innings.

Macon surrendered a pair of runs in the second when the Cajuns loaded the bases against her. Following a fielder's choice, Vallie Gaspard singled up the middle to plate a pair of runs for the 2-1 lead.

But besides Gaspard's three base knocks, no other hitter in the Cajuns' lineup was able to muster much offensively as they managed only one other hit against the right-hander.

"I had a little difficulty finding the strike zone," said Macon, who improved to 11-1 on the season. "But I came back after that inning and worked in the bullpen to find it again."

Andrea Harrison got UCLA on the board in the first with a single through the left side that brought home DiSalvatore to kick-start the offense.

Now Lafayette, which snapped a seven-game winning streak, must find a way to pick itself back up in a win-or-go home situation. That's something Gaspard believes won't be an issue.

"We've always found a way to bounce back," she said. "Whether we are up 10 or down 10, we are never going to stop fighting."