May 18, 2014
LOS ANGELES – It took the very final out of the season to quell the 2014 University of Notre Dame softball team’s high-powered offense. No. 3 UCLA battled around two bases loaded jams during the contest to defeat the Irish 1-0 on Sunday and win the NCAA Los Angeles Regional at Easton Stadium.
Notre Dame (41-13) battled valiantly to the end of its season, setting program records with a .357 batting average, 533 hits and 107 doubles. The Irish, in their 16th straight appearance (19th overall) in an NCAA Regional, also reached the 40-win plateau for the 16th time.
Ally Carda worked a leadoff walk to open the ballgame for UCLA (51-6) in the top of the first inning, and a Stephany LaRosa single into left field moved Carda into scoring position. Senior Laura Winter (29-7) responded by forcing Mysha Sataraka to foul out to sophomore Micaela Arizmendi next to first base, and grounded Gabrielle Maurice out to junior Jenna Simon at second to strand two Bruin runners on base.
NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Top 10 finalist Karley Wester led off the Notre Dame bottom of the first with a single, but a fielder’s choice put Wester out at second base. Simon stole second base to move into scoring position, but Carda (31-4) retired the next two Irish hitters on strikes to escape the jam.
It was more of the same for Winter and the Irish in the field in the top of the second. Jessica Hall flew out on a rope to Wester in left field, Alyssa Tiumalu struck out swinging and Gracie Goulder lined out to senior captain Chloe Saganowich at shortstop.
UCLA’s Allexis Bennett led off the top of the third inning with a bunt single, but three straight outs left the Bruin center fielder standing at second base. Carda grounded out to second base, Winter got Delaney Spaulding to chase strike three and LaRosa flew out to center for the frame’s final out.
A walk drawn by senior Lauren Stuhr and a single through the left side by Wester gave Notre Dame two base runners with one out in the bottom of the third. A wild pitch from Carda moved both runners over an additional base. Simon reached base on a fielder’s choice to shortstop that put Stuhr out at the plate, but took second on the play. An intentional walk to junior All-American Emilee Koerner loaded the bases, but UCLA third baseman Sataraka made her second great stab of the game, robbing junior Katey Haus of a base hit to end the inning.
Hall picked up her second huge hit of the weekend against Notre Dame in the top of the fourth, clubbing a stiff single into the left field corner to score pinch runner Jessica Amaral from second base, putting UCLA in front 1-0. Bennett looked to leg out a second infield hit, but Saganowich made a great throw on the run to log the third out of the frame and keep any additional Bruin runs off the scoreboard.
Another 1-2-3 inning followed for Winter in the top of the fifth inning, freezing Carda for strike three, inducing a Spaulding fly out to Wester in left and grounding LaRosa out to third base on a great snag in the dirt by Haus.
Simon kept Notre Dame’s bottom of the fifth inning alive with a high slapping single to the right side, giving the Irish a runner with two away. UCLA reliever Paige McDuffee was able to ground Koerner out to second base to halt any Irish threat.
UCLA placed two runners on with two outs in the top of the sixth, but a flare from Goulder into the left field corner was hauled in by Wester, who held on to the ball after bouncing off the padding of the fence. The great play provided Notre Dame with a huge out number three to escape the Bruin offensive.
The Bruins loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh, but Winter showed tremendous resolve in the circle and did not allow a run. Sataraka fouled out to Haus at third base, and Maurice flied out to Stuhr in right to close the half inning.
Notre Dame loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh thanks to great playmaking, started off by a Stuhr single up the box. Wester reached on a fielding error by UCLA third baseman Sataraka to keep the momentum rolling, and a nice play on a Simon high slap hit advanced the lead runners to second and third. After an intentional walk to Koerner, the Irish had a chance to win the contest, but a grounder to second ended the game and gave UCLA a hard-fought 1-0 victory.