The Women's College World Series continued with highlight-worthy performances, elite plays and top-notch hitting on Friday — most of which came from Oklahoma and UCLA.
The Bruins picked up the first win of the day with a 6-2 victory over Arizona in a seventh-inning surge, while Oklahoma topped its Bedlam rival Oklahoma State with a solid performance from start to finish. With these two teams advancing, here are the three biggest takeaways from Day 2 of the Women's College World Series.
UCLA is a team that knows how to finish strong
When the two winningest softball programs in history face one another on the biggest stage, intensity is expected. Perfection is demanded. Excellence is revealed. Arizona and UCLA put all of this on display and more when the powerhouse programs took the field on Friday, but in the end, the Bruins were just too much for the Wildcats to handle.
UCLA is one win away from the Championship Series!— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) June 1, 2019
(2) @UCLASoftball explodes for four runs in the top of the 7th to defeat (6) Arizona, 6-2, and will advance to play on Sunday!#WCWS pic.twitter.com/pfZCVJJGy4
Player of the Game Rachel Garcia helped put UCLA on the board first with a sacrifice fly deep into the outfield to bring in teammate Bubba Nickles, who also scored last night against Minnesota. Arizona’s Malia Martinez made a diving catch to earn the out against Garcia, but the senior Bruin's work set the momentum for UCLA in this rivalry game. Arizona held tough and scored a run of its own after a homer from Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, tying the game, but the Bruins still had five more runs in them. This would not be a close game for long. UCLA walked away with its win against Minnesota after a three-run homer in the sixth inning on Thursday, and they found that late game magic again against the Wildcats.
Malia Quarles made it 2-1 after a homer in the sixth, and a series of walks and hits sent Briana Perez, Stevie Wisz, Taylor Pack and Jacqui Prober across the plate to extend the lead to 6-1. Arizona punched one more homer over the fence to end the game 6-2, but the outcome, the end of game surge and the dominance was all too familiar. UCLA is a team that has a second gear, and the question now is just how much more they can push.
Oklahoma is Oklahoma again
The Sooners struggled against Alabama on Thursday night before pulling out their gritty 3-2 win in the sixth inning, but on Friday a different team took the field. The Sooners surged out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and held the lead for the entire contest. Oklahoma State picked up a run in the second, but Friday night was still all Oklahoma. Sooner Nicole Mendes picked up a run after a single, a barreling run to third off a single from Grace Lyon and a dash to home after Aviu was walked. Lyons then scored when Oklahoma State walked Clifton. Romero added Oklahoma's sixth and final run after another walk in at the top of the sixth inning.
The No. 1 team in the country played like the No.1 team in the country on Friday, and they’ll need to keep this success rolling if they want to continue to battle for a third national title in five years. A 6-1 win against a sneaky Oklahoma State team is something to celebrate, but this kind of offense will continue to be needed if they want to compete against the offensive production of UCLA or another team from the top of the bracket later in the tournament.
The parity in college softball makes it great, but Oklahoma and UCLA continue to rise to the top
This year’s regular season has been dominated by Oklahoma and UCLA, and the first two games of the Women’s College World Series proved that those teams are a step above the rest. UCLA took a few unranked losses in the second half of the regular season, dropping games to Oregon and Stanford to lose its No. 1 ranking, and they also picked up an abnormal loss against Missouri in the second game of the Los Angeles Regional. Since then, however, UCLA has turned a corner. This team is hungry, and it’s ready to challenge.
Behind stellar pitching from Rachel Garcia and a powerful offensive force, UCLA has outscored its opponents by at least four runs in every game, and they’ll look to continue this trend into the semifinals. Nickles and Pack have both scored runs in both Women’s College World Series game so far, and with their .454 and .472 batting averages, the two Bruins batters are leading the team at the plate. This is a team ready for battle, and they’ve shown this through two impressive games.
Romeo picked up runs in both of Oklahoma's Women's College World Series games, earning two in the first game against Alabama and then crossing home plate again against Oklahoma State after Sam Clakley walked Alo. Her success at the plate is complimented by Clifton, who has led the team as the scoring player with the highest batting average of .540, followed by Alo, who is batting a .495 in these first two games. This efficiency is something to be admired, and it’s what has propelled this team to its success so far.