A sixth inning rally left No. 21 Long Beach State one run shy of tying No. 3 UCLA in the final game of the Louisville Slugger Invitational. The Bruins stayed unbeaten with a 6-5 victory in front of 1,196 fans at the LBSU Softball Complex.
“That was a great game,” UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “[Long Beach] has great hitting, pitching and coaching, and it was a great way to end the preseason. Games like that can build confidence for both teams going into conference now.”
Long Beach (19-7) broke out for the first run of the game after sophomore designated player Taylor Rowland singled with two outs and two strikes to score junior shortstop Nicole Fry. The early lead came against UCLA redshirt sophomore Rachel Garcia who entered the game 9-0 with a 0.64 ERA.
UCLA (24-0) would respond against sophomore pitcher Cielo Meza with a 5-run top of the fourth inning highlighted by a 2-run single by freshman shortstop Brianna Perez with two outs in the inning. The Bruins collected five runs and five hits in the game against the Long Beach State ace and handed Meza only her second loss of the season.
UCLA redshirt freshman outfielder Aaliyah Jordan hit a solo home run in the top of the fifth that was part of her 4-for-4 day at the plate. The blow would prove to be the difference in the game.
The 49ers had a big inning of their own in the sixth after scoring three runs on three key hits to give UCLA a scare in the late innings. Fry knocked in her second and third RBIs of the game on a double to put her team within one run. Garcia would settle down and retire the next three Long Beach batters and strand the tying run.
“We did a great job of getting ourselves in a position to be one or two hits away from being able to beat them,” Long Beach head coach Kim Sowder said.
Fry finished the game 2-for-2 with 3 RBIs with a run scored and was a big part of the late game rally.
“My team always fights and I think we can go up against anyone in the nation,” Fry said. “This is a good motivator and we’re only going to be working harder from here out.”
The loss made Long Beach 3-2 in its host tournament after its also lost to San Jose State 7-3 on March 9. The 49ers also had three wins against Michigan State, Boston and San Diego State.
Looking ahead, Long Beach has two home games on the schedule against Texas Tech (16-8) and Monmouth (6-8) on at 2 p.m. March 14 and 15.