In its first ever NCAA Super Regional game, No. 12 Ole Miss was a strike away twice from taking game one, but rallies by No. 5 UCLA gave the home team an 8-7 victory Thursday night at Easton Stadium.
The Rebels take on the Bruins in a win or go home game Friday night at 8 p.m. CT/6 p.m. PT. It will air live on ESPN.
In a game that took four hours and five minutes, and 11 innings to complete, the Rebels (43-19) trailed early on, but rallied back for a 5-run sixth to take a 5-4 advantage. The Bruins (46-13) were down to their last out in the seventh when a wild pitch tied it up, sending game one of the Super Regional to extras. Ole Miss again took a 2-run lead in the 10th, before the Bruins tied it back up and eventually walked off in the 11th.
The Rebels’ junior RHP Kaitlin Lee (23-11) and UCLA’s Rachel Garcia (21-7) both lasted the full 11 frames, as Lee threw 191 pitches and Garcia lasted 232. Offensively, Alyssa Gonzlaez entered as a pinch hitter and went 3-for-3 with four RBI, while Brittany Finney added the other two RBI off a 2-run blast in the sixth.
Garcia helped herself out putting UCLA on the board in the second when she hit a solo shot to center, putting the Bruins in front 1-0. UCLA came back to plate three more in the third after a bunt that created a defensive mishap, a sac fly, and miscommunication on a delayed steal making it a 4-0 game through three.
Garcia had a no-hit bid going through five before the Rebels stormed back in the sixth to create a brand new ballgame. Miranda Strother broke up the no hitter to lead off the sixth, before Finney crushed a 2-run shot to left-center cutting the lead to 4-2. Ashton Lampton then singled up the middle, before Kaylee Horton shot a base hit through the left side setting up two on. After a bunt that was popped up, Paige McKinney drew a walk, before a wild pitch scored Alex Schneider from third cutting the lead to 4-3. Gonzalez then ripped a 2-RBI single up the middle giving the Rebels a 5-4 advantage.
That scored held through the sixth, and through most of the seventh, as the Bruins put a leadoff runner aboard with a single that dropped just inside the right field line. A wild pitch moved the runner to second, before Lee got a popup and groundout. But, another wild pitch scored the tying run, sending the game to extras at 5-5.
After a fairly quiet couple of frames in the eighth and ninth, the Rebels got on the board again after Courtney Syrett led off with a single, and McKinney reached on a sacrifice bunt and E5 to put two on with no outs. After a wild pitch moved the runners up 60 feet, Gonzalez came through again with a line drive off the wall in left-center, pushing the lead back to 7-5. The Rebels went on to tally two more hits after the clutch hit, but a pair of strikeouts ended the rally.
So, for the second time, Ole Miss headed into the home half needing just three outs to seal the deal. This time, Lee gave up a leadoff single, but got a 4-6-3 double play behind her. From there, the Bruins strung together two-straight singles, before a double went off the wall in right field, again tying it up, 7-7. Lee worked out of it stranding the runner at third, sending the contest to the 11th.
UCLA drew a leadoff walk, before a sacrifice bunt moved the game-winning run to second. After another walk, Lee worked a strikeout, before a single got through to right field scoring the winning run.
Lee walked only three and struck out just one in her school record 13th-straight complete game. She allowed seven earned runs off 14 hits, while Garcia got the win after striking out 12 despite five walks with 11 hits surrendered.