May 26, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) UCLA freshman Rachel Garcia seemed to have earned a night off. After all, she threw 232 pitches.

But she didn't get one. Instead, she was back at work and helped send the Bruins to their third straight College World Series.

A night after throwing 11 innings in a four-hour win, she threw 50 more pitches Friday in four hitless innings of relief in a 1-0 softball victory over Mississippi.

Garcia opened the best-of-three NCAA super regional by going the distance in an 8-7 win over the Rebels on Thursday night. She then followed Selina Ta'amilo less than 24 hours later to increase her two-game total to 282 pitches for UCLA (47-13).

ESPN softball analyst Jessica Mendoza called both games, describing Garcia's effort in Game 1 as ''unbelievable'' and ''more mental than anything.''

''Garcia looked as good in the last inning - getting more strikeouts in the later innings - and turned it onto another gear,'' Mendoza told The Associated Press by phone.

She struck out 12 and walked five Thursday night at Easton Stadium. The phenom from Palmdale, California, who plays with a left knee brace, also came up big at the plate. She homered in the second inning and hit a two-out single in the 10th, beginning a two-run rally.

Her previous high pitch count was 129.

Garcia's opponent in Game 1 was no slouch, either. Kaitlin Lee threw 191 pitches for the Rebels, who finished their best season in school history at 43-20. They combined for 423 pitches in Game 1.

Madeline Jelenicki provided the clinching RBI single in both wins for the Bruins. They will face Florida State or LSU on Thursday in the College World Series, attempting to win their 12th NCAA title.

Mendoza wasn't surprised UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez and Ole Miss coach Mike Smith stuck with their aces in extra innings. Lisa Fernandez is the Bruins' pitching coach and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Mendoza was an All-American at Stanford and an Olympic teammate of Fernandez.

''This is what the postseason is about,'' Mendoza said. ''You ride your star.''

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