June 2, 2019

Rachel Garcia pitches shutout, hits walk-off homer to send UCLA softball to WCWS championship series

By anaheimsigns

That’s why Rachel Garcia is the back-to-back USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

The pitcher’s star rose to another stratosphere Sunday in Oklahoma City, pitching 10 shutout innings in an epic standoff against Washington in the Women’s College World Series and launching the walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th for a 3-0 victory that sends UCLA to its first WCWS championship series since 2010.

After throwing 179 pitches and recording a season-high 16 strikeouts, the junior crushed a no-doubter over the left field fence off Washington pitcher Gabbie Plain to win the game. The typically stoic Garcia pumped her fist as she rounded the bases. A single tear rolled down her cheek during the postgame interview on ESPN. Pitcher Megan Faraimo fanned Garcia with an oversized leaf on camera.

The Bruins are the most decorated program in the sport, but haven’t won a national title since 2010. They will play either top-seeded Oklahoma or No. 8 Alabama in a best-two-of-three championship series starting Monday.

All-American pitchers dueled between UW’s duo of Plain and Taran Alvelo and UCLA’s Garcia. Plain got the start and allowed just five hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Alvelo entered in relief in the seventh and allowed three hits in three innings.

Garcia, who has pitched every inning of the WCWS for UCLA, outlasted both on her own, giving up eight hits and four walks.

The Palmdale native pitched out of a pair of two-on, one-out jams late, stranding four runners in the sixth and seventh innings. She had five strikeouts with runners in scoring position as Washington left 12 on base.

UW didn’t get its first runner on third base until the eighth inning, when Garcia allowed a two-out walk to load the bases with her 140th pitch of the day. The Pac-12 Player and Pitcher of the Year responded with her 12th strikeout of the game to end the threat.

In 22 innings pitched against Washington this season, including 12 in the regular season, Garcia gave up no earned runs.

Garcia got help from her defense as left fielder Kelli Godin and third baseman Brianna Tautalafua made standout plays in foul territory. Godin laid out for catch in the top of the fifth. Tautalafua leaned over the dugout fence for a key catch in the 10th.

It looked as if Garcia had the winning hit in the eighth with two on and two out, but UW left fielder Sami Reynolds came up with a leaping catch in left field to end the threat. As she ran toward first, Garcia watched the ball fly through the air, but could only muster a wry smile when she watched it land in Reynolds’ glove.

In the same situation in the 10th, again with two on and two out, Garcia hit it clear over Reynolds’ head for the win.