On the final day of the Pacific-12 softball season, No. 2 UCLA slammed No. 3 Arizona State, 9-2 Saturday in Tempe, outhitting the Sun Devils 13-4 with home runs from Delaney Spaulding and Alyssa Tiumalu.
The Bruins (48-6, 19-5 Pacific-12) won the final two games to win a three-game series versus ASU (44-10-1, 15-7-1) for the first time since 2009, but finished one game behind No.1 Oregon for the conference title. The Ducks won at No. 8 Arizona 14-3 Saturday.
“They kind of got on a roll early,” ASU coach Craig Nicholson said of UCLA. “Obviously it’s a lot easier to hit when you have a 5-2 lead rather than when you have a five-run hole, they took advantage. We need to do our job of coming out and being solid defensively.”
UCLA opened the scoring in the first, as Spaulding doubled a line drive off the center field fence to put Ally Carda on third, who was driven home on a Mysha Sataraka single.
On her Senior Day, Cheyenne Coyle smacked a two-run home run to center, scoring classmate Bailey Wigness, as the Sun Devils took the lead in the bottom of the first.
“It was a pretty good pitch that I was looking for,” said Coyle, who was 2-for-2. “I don’t know if she was going out or in, but it was a pretty good pitch for me to hit. I was just trying to be aggressive and not let them get ahead of me, right from the gun I was looking for a good pitch.”
Spaulding, who was 3-for-5 on the day, singled in Scottsdale native Gracie Goulder with two outs in the second to wrap the game at 2-2.
UCLA center fielder Allexis Bennett may be the best hitter in the matchup with a .437 batting average, but she made the defensive play of Saturday’s game with a diving catch on Chelsea Gonzales for the second out of the second inning.
The Bruins scored three more runs in the top of the third. Sataraka led off with a single and was driven home by Gabrielle Maurice, who went 3-for-4 Saturday. That prompted Dallas Escobedo to replace Mackenzie Popescue at the mound for ASU. Goulder loaded the bases with a hit, Bennett drove in Jessica Hall, and a walk to Carda scored Maurice, before Escobedo retired Spaulding and LaRosa.
UCLA came right back in the fourth with Tiumalu’s solo home run, and shortly after, Goulder tripled off the wall to score Maurice to make it 7-2.
ASU had its best chance for a comeback in the bottom of the fifth when Carda walked Haley Steele to load the bases with two outs, but Alix Johnson grounded out to strand the runners.
Spaulding put the icing on the cake with her two-run shot on no outs in the seventh.
Carda, who had the game-tying and winning home runs Friday night, replaced Jessica Hall after the Coyle home run and allowed one hit in four innings
“She just comes out and changes speeds,” Nicholson said of Carda, who improved to 29-4. “She’s probably the hardest thrower we’ve seen all year, but it’s more than that, she gets good locations, she just kept us off balance all weekend.”
Popescue (20-3) recorded the loss after allowing five of the runs, and Escobedo had an off night with three strikeouts and five walks.
“My arm was a little sore, just getting out there and trying to throw hard, that made me focus more on the corners and staying off the plate, but they made adjustments, and I tried my best,” Escobedo said.
The NCAA will announce the brackets, seeds, regional sites, and matchups at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU, and both UCLA and ASU expect to be in the top two to four seeds.