June 03, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) UCLA assistant coach Lisa Fernandez might have made the play of the day for the Bruins.

Fernandez was ejected in the sixth inning after protesting a play at home plate involving UCLA's Gabrielle Maurice and Texas A&M catcher Ashley Walters. A throw home led Walters to tag Maurice in the face. Fernandez argued there should have been an obstruction call, and she bumped the home plate umpire.

The fired-up Bruins scored five runs in the seventh and beat Texas A&M 8-2 on Saturday in the Women's College World Series elimination game.

UCLA will play Washington in an elimination game Saturday night without Fernandez. The NCAA issued the three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist a two-game suspension.

Bruins coach Kelly Inouye-Perez liked what she saw from her team after the incident.

''You can have big debates about what momentum is, but I think what you got to see is there was a real strong belief in having each other's backs. That's something that is very, very powerful. We know that we're in a battle, and anytime somebody potentially is put in position to get hurt or in any position that may put themselves in a need for somebody to have their backs, this team steps up.''

Maurice didn't have much to say about the play.

''Texas A&M is a great program, a talented pitcher, a really great catcher,'' she said. ''It's a tough play to make and judge. We're just here to play ball.''

Inouye-Perez appreciated Fernandez standing up for Maurice. She said she was disappointed there was no obstruction call because of the risk Maurice had to take to try and reach the plate.

''I have no regrets because what Lisa did - if you know how much she has Gabi's back, I'm glad it only got to be an ejection,'' Inouye-Perez said.

NCAA Softball Secretary and Rules Editor Vickie Van Kleeck disagreed with the way Inouye-Perez and Fernandez saw the play.

''The fielder has the right to field the errant throw, and the base runner has the right to run to home plate, and then we have a collision,'' Van Kleeck said. ''It's not an obstruction issue. They both had a right to be where they were, and unfortunately, they came together and made contact. Obstruction doesn't enter into that particular play.

Rachel Garcia hit a two-run homer and got the win, and Kylee Perez hit a solo homer for UCLA (48-14).

Garcia (23-8), the NFCA Freshman of the Year, gave up three hits and one run in six innings.

Celena Massey had a pinch-hit solo homer in the seventh for Texas A&M (47-13). She had four at-bats all season before the senior finished her career with the blast. She and her teammates celebrated wildly when she crossed home plate.

''I just went up there hacking, and after that, I saw them jumping, and I was like,`Holy moley, it's out,''' she said. ''I just got so excited with them.''

Trinity Harrington (14-4) took the loss for Texas A&M.

''UCLA did a really great job to just keep coming,'' Texas A&M coach Jo Evans said. ''They're offensively just a powerhouse. They hit through their lineup. They hit with a lot of power, and you know, they showed why they continue to come back to the College World Series year in and year out.''

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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