Arizona softball squandered a three-run lead and saw a seventh-inning rally fall short Friday in a 5-4 loss to No. 3 UCLA in Westwood.
The Wildcats are effectively eliminated from Pac-12 championship contention, while the Bruins have clinched a share of the title—their first conference championship since 2009—and can win it outright Saturday with a win or a Washington loss.
Arizona, which led 3-0 at one point, trailed 5-3 heading into the seventh when Carli Campbell (single), Hanah Bowen (hit by pitch) and Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza (hit by pitch) reached to begin the frame.
UCLA ace Rachel Garcia relieved Holly Azevedo and got Jessie Harper to pop out, before fanning Malia Martinez for the second out.
Garcia plunked Dejah Mulipola to bring the Wildcats within one, but Rylee Pierce grounded out to second after running the count full.
It was redemption for Garcia, who surrendered three homers in Thursday’s loss—her first L of the season—and got knocked around early Friday.
Harper blasted a solo homer in the first off Megan Faraimo—her 25th of the season—and Mulipola belted a two-run homer to right center off Garcia to make it a three-run cushion.
Those were UA’s fourth and fifth long balls of the series.
But UCLA’s Taylor Pack mashed a two-out two-run homer in the bottom of the third and Bubba Nickles stroked an RBI single to center in the fourth to tie it and knock UA starter Alyssa Denham out of the game.
Aaliyah Jordan then slapped a two-run double down the left-field line off Bowen to put UCLA up for good.
Azevedo took over for Garcia after Mulipola’s homer and tossed four scoreless innings, before working herself into trouble in the seventh.
Arizona will go for the series win Saturday at noon PST on the Pac-12 Network.
While the Wildcats are out of conference championship contention and have likely already done enough to earn a top-8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a win could improve their seeding and serve as a confidence boost heading into the postseason.