UCLA softball eliminated from NCAA tournament

UCLA limped into the NCAA softball tournament after losing to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game.

That limp continued Friday in the second-seeded Bruins’ Los Angeles Regional opener, falling to Grand Canyon 3-2

They had a chance to get back on the front foot Saturday, but instead the 12-time national champions had a once-promising season end with an equally stunning 2-1 loss to Liberty at Easton Stadium.

UCLA (52-7) got off to a great start, getting a leadoff blast from freshman Megan Grant in the bottom of first inning off Liberty pitcher Karlie Keeney. It was Grant’s third leadoff homer of the season and 15th overall.

The Bruins missed a chance to open lead in the bottom of the second. With two outs, Kennedy Powell and Janelle Meoño hit back-to-back singles and Grant drew a walk to load the bases. But Keeney got Maya Brady to ground out to first base to end the threat.

UCLA put a few other runners aboard but couldn’t push anything across the rest of the way.

UCLA starter Brooke Yanez was in control early, but the Flames (39-21) evened the score in the top of the fourth inning. Rachel Roupe swung at the first-pitch offering and homered to left-center field.

Yanez, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, responded well. After getting out of the fourth, she struck out the side in the fifth and cruised into the seventh. She finished with nine strikeouts.

Yanez’s good fortune — as well as UCLA’s — ended in the seventh.

Roupe led off with a walk and advanced to second base on a contested sacrifice bunt by Rachel Craine. Craine was originally called safe at first but the Bruins challenged the play and the call was reversed.

Yanez struck out Megan Fortner, but pinch-hitter KC Machado followed with a single through the left side of the infield, allowing Roupe to score the go-ahead run on a close play at the plate. After a review by the umpire, the call was upheld — Roupe sliding under the late tag of catcher Alyssa Garcia.

Megan Faraimo took over in the circle and got out of the inning without further damage, giving UCLA one last shot in the bottom of the seventh.

However, the Bruins went 1-2-3, and were eliminated from the NCAA tournament.

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