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UCLA Softball Uses Late Surge to Defeat LMU on Day 2 of NCAA Regionals

The Bruins and Lions were locked in a tight, low-scoring contest through five innings before the blue and gold broke it open late.

It took a while before their bats woke up, but the Bruins came through late at the plate to pick up another postseason victory.

Powered by a five-run sixth inning, No. 5 seed UCLA softball (45-8, 19-5 Pac-12) surged to a 7-1 win over Loyola Marymount (37-16, 13-2 WCC) on the second day of competition at the Los Angeles Regional. The showdown of local squads was knotted at 1-1 for a large chunk of the day, with the Bruins getting hard contact and runners on base but failing to get runs on the board.

That all changed in the sixth, which started with a single by redshirt sophomore designated player Alyssa Garcia. Redshirt junior second baseman Anna Vines bunted Garcia over to second, then sophomore third baseman Thessa Malau'ulu and redshirt junior left fielder Kelli Godin each bunted for hits to load the bases.

Senior first baseman Kinsley Washington drew a walk to give UCLA its first lead of the day, then senior shortstop Briana Perez tripled the advantage with a two-RBI single. Washington scored on a wild pitch that also sent Perez to third, and then Perez came home on a sac fly by redshirt senior catcher Delanie Wisz.

In the span of three at-bats, the Bruins had broken the tie and strung together five runs, needing just one hit to do so.

"At this time of the season, it's whatever it takes to win," said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. "We were hitting the ball hard, and when you're hitting the ball hard and you don't get outcome ... it puts you in a position to think you have to do more. Actually, what is another part of our arsenal is the short game and speed."

The offensive breakthrough, especially converting with runners in scoring position, came as a departure from the first few innings.

Both teams had an extra-base hit with one down in the opening inning, but the Lions were able to go the extra 60 feet to get on the board first.

Perez legged out a triple on the second at-bat of the afternoon, but she was stranded on third to end the inning. When it was LMU's turn to bat, shortstop Megan Dedrick launched a solo home run to left off of junior Megan Faraimo.

The Bruins responded in the top of the second, loading the bases with two walks and a single before even recording an out. Faraimo came in as a pinch-hitter to draw the RBI walk, but UCLA only got one run in the frame after a series of fielder's choices and groundouts.

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The two sides were locked in that 1-1 tie for the next three innings, as LMU continued to flash the leather and keep UCLA from converting its baserunners into runs.

Faraimo, on the other hand, continued to deal, going 1-2-3 in the second and third. She would have gotten out of the fourth facing the minimum as well if not for an error by Vines. Even taking the inning-extending miscue into account, Faraimo still escaped the frame unscathed.

The Bruins let the Lions threaten in the fifth thanks to another two-out error – this time by Perez, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year – but Faraimo again escaped the jam.

When she came out for the bottom of the sixth, now working with a five-run lead, she buzzed her way through LMU by putting up another 1-2-3 inning. Faraimo sat the Lions down in order in the seventh as well, finishing the day with eight strikeouts and no walks.

"That was huge – shoutout defense," Faraimo said. "I think a couple of those innings in there was just plays being made left and right, which was cool. But I think that's a big momentum thing when we get back in the dugout, back to scoring runs."

Perez led the way with two RBIs, although it was the bottom of the lineup that did a lot of the heavy lifting in setting up some of the biggest moments. Garcia, Vines, Malau'ulu and Godin combined to go 8-for-11 at the plate, and Godin slapped a single that brought home an extra insurance run in the top of the seventh.

"Any time the bottom half can get us back up to the top, watch out," Inouye-Perez said. "That's when we're at our best."

LMU now moves into the loser's bracket and will face the winner of the upcoming Ole Miss-Grand Canyon game later Saturday night. UCLA awaits the winner of that contest in the Los Angeles Regional Finals later on Sunday, and they can advance to their eighth-straight Super Regional with a win.

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