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Two clutch Ally Carda home runs propel UCLA to win at Arizona State

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Ally Carda hit a game-tying solo home run with two outs in the top of the seventh, then a two-run shot in the ninth that would be the winner, as No. 2 UCLA won at No. 3 Arizona State, 9-5, in nine innings Friday.

UCLA, which improved to 47-6 and 18-5 in the Pacific-12, opened with a two-run home run from catcher Stephany LaRosa in the first, and Mysha Sataraka (3-for-5 with 4 RBIs) connected on her 16th of the season to ice the win in the final inning.

Starting at first base, Carda (28-4) also pitched the final seven innings, collecting eight strikeouts, while Dallas Escobedo (22-7) came in relief of Mackenzie Popescue and struck out seven for ASU (44-9-1, 15-6-1).

“The girls say she’s a beast, but she’s just clutch,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said of Carda. “She has the ability to go to the next level this year, both offensively and defensively, very focused, she’s been big for us all season. I credit the team to separate the defense from the offense. Gracie Goulder had a defensive miscue in that inning, but she also led off that last inning that set off the big rally. Ally shut down a very potent offense, and as she came off, she kept her team in to battle. That home run to tie it was huge.”

The Sun Devils tied it at 2-2 in the bottom of the second, as Chelsea Gonzales singled with two outs to drive home Elizabeth Caporuscio and Bethany Kemp.

The Bruins would find home plate twice more in the top of the third. After Allexis Bennett reached first on an error, Carda ran out the double play, Delaney Spaulding bunted, and LaRosa loaded the bases with a single. Sataraka singled in Carda and Spaulding, but she was later thrown out at second. A two-out walk to Alyssa Tiumalu was the call from ASU coach Craig Nicholson to replace Popescue with Escobedo. Jessica Hall popped out to strand the bases loaded.

To start the fourth, Haley Steele produced an infield single, but Caporuscio grounded into a double play for ASU. Then, Bethany Kemp and Bailey Wigness collected back-to-back acrobatic catches on LaRosa and Sataraka for the second and third outs of the top of the fifth.

ASU took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Nikki Girard led off with a single, Jennifer Soria walked, and Wigness singled to load the bases with no outs. Alix Johnson bobbled one to second that Goulder overthrew to first baseman Tiumalu, scoring the pinch runner Abby Spiel and Soria to tie it at 4-4. Cheyenne Coyle then drove home Wigness from third to take the 5-4 lead. She would take second and then third on consecutive pitches that got away from the catcher LaRosa, as UCLA began losing its cool. ASU, however, would strand two runners.

The Bruins soon found their momentum, as Carda sent the tying home run over the left field fence with two outs and a 2-1 count in the top of the seventh. Escobedo struck out Spaulding to end the inning.

Coyle walked with one out in the seventh, but she was the only ASU base runner, and the game was sent into extra innings.

Sataraka reached first on a one-out hit in the eighth, just after a foul shot down the left field line that was inches away from being an extra base hit. With two outs, Tiumalu singled, advancing Sataraka to third, but an infield pop fly from Hall ended the inning.

Leading off the ninth, Goulder beat the throw from her bunt to take first. The same play from Bennett advanced Goulder to second, although she was out at first. Carda cleared center with another home run to give UCLA a 7-5 edge, and Sataraka would add a two-run shot with two outs to right to secure the victory.

The same two teams conclude their regular seasons at 3:30 p.m. Saturday from Farrington Stadium, before the NCAA Regional matchups and sites are announced Sunday.

“ASU is a quality team, they have great pitching, great hitting, I couldn’t ask for the schedule to be any better here towards the end,” Inouye-Perez said. “We need those kinds of moments, where you can have your athletes shine, or learn some pretty valuable lessons.”

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