UCLA softball wins Super Regional opener in walk-off fashion – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — As Madeline Jelenicki rounded second, she was stopped in her tracks by a pack of her teammates. UCLA’s celebration spilled on to the Easton Stadium field after the junior hit a walk-off RBI single to right field in UCLA’s wild 8-7, 11-inning victory against Mississippi in the NCAA Super Regional on Thursday.

The Bruins (46-13) were reduced to their final outs twice. First, in the bottom of the seventh, Delaney Spaulding came home on wild pitch to tie the score, then after UCLA gave up two runs in the top of the 10th, freshman Bubba Nickles answered with a two-run double in the bottom of the frame to extend the game.

UCLA can clinch its third straight Women’s College World Series berth with a win against the 12th-seeded Rebels (43-19) on Friday at 6 p.m. at Easton Stadium. Game 3, if necessary, would be Saturday.

Pitcher Rachel Garcia, who was named a top-three finalist for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association National Freshman of the Year Award, struggled down the stretch. She tossed a career-high 232 pitches in 11 innings, while giving up career-worsts in walks (five), hits (11) and runs (seven). Her 12 strikeouts are a career-best.

The former National Gatorade Player of the Year came within two innings of her second career no-hitter, but instead relinquished UCLA’s four-run lead in the sixth inning.

Miranda Strother’s leadoff single opened the flood gates for the Rebels. Brittany Finney followed with a two-run home run. Ashton Lampton and Kaylee Horton then each added a single. Paige McKinney drew a walk to load the bases with one out, then a wild pitch brought another Mississippi runner home. Alyssa Gonzalez then gave the Rebels their first lead of the game on a two-RBI single.

Gonzalez was the only Rebel to collect more than two hits against Garcia as the pinch hitter drove in four RBIs on three singles, including a two-run single in the top of the 10th.

Garcia faced 11 batters in the sixth inning.

UCLA did most of its…

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