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Arizona softball falters late, loses to UCLA in Women’s College World Series

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Rachel Garcia
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

OKLAHOMA CITY — When the play was over, after the ball rattled in and out of her glove, Carli Campbell placed both hands on her head in disbelief.

The sure-handed outfielder, who had only committed one error all season and made a run-saving catch earlier in the game, dropped a routine fly ball that allowed UCLA to plate two runs and pull away for a 6-2 win over the Arizona Wildcats on Friday in the Women’s College World Series.

“The same kid that makes the great play drops a fly ball,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “It’s something that I haven’t seen for a long time.”

The Wildcats will play No. 5 Florida or No. 8 Alabama in an elimination game Saturday at 6:30 p.m. PT.

Campbell’s miscue capped a seventh inning that Candrea could only describe as “crazy” — and not the good kind of crazy.

Earlier in the frame, UCLA’s Aaliyah Jordan stroked an RBI double and advanced to third after the Wildcats were late cutting off a throw to the plate.

Pinch-runner Stevie Wisz then scored on a sacrifice fly that she had no business scoring on.

Arizona right-fielder Peanut Martinez delivered a low laser to the plate, initially causing Wisz to retreat to third. But UA catcher Dejah Mulipola could not squeeze the throw and Wisz smartly darted home to give the Bruins a 4-1 lead.

“You can’t make mistakes like that at this level in a game of this stature,” Candrea said. “I was very pleased with the team for six innings.”

Five and a half, actually.

The bottom of the sixth was just as puzzling. With one out and runners on second and third, Reyna Carranco chased Rachel Garcia’s riseball for the second out. Hanah Bowen then fouled out to third to strand both runners, as the Bruins clung to a 2-1 lead.

“I really felt good when when we had runners in second and third with one out and I have Reyna Carranco up,” Candrea said. “Reyna has been absolutely clutch for us and was the Pac-12 hitter of the year. And to watch her at-bat, I was just like, ‘Wow.’”

The Wildcats were 6-0 in the postseason entering Friday. Senior ace Taylor McQuillin, who threw 141 pitches Thursday against Washington, was tagged with the loss.

The senior lefty struck out six, permitted six hits and walked five. Three of the six runs she surrendered were unearned. She was relieved by Alyssa Denham after Campbell’s error.

“I think we kind of just let the game get fast on us,” said UA center fielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza. “We just let Arizona softball slip our minds for an inning, and I think that’s kind of what happened. That can happen sometimes, and it happened today. We slipped up but we’re just going to come back stronger.”

Aside from a pair of long balls by Palomino-Cardoza in the third and seventh, Arizona could not crack Garcia, who allowed four hits while striking out six and walking none.

The two-way star also drove in a run via sacrifice fly in the third to give UCLA a 1-0 lead, though it would have yielded more if not for a lunging catch by Martinez.

Campbell then a made a diving catch down the left-field line in the fifth to save a run and preserve a 1-1 score.

UCLA pinch-hitter Malia Quarles untied the game in the sixth by crushing a solo homer to center.

It only got worse for the Wildcats from there.

“Right now we’re just going to kind of get over it as quick as we can and realize that we still have games to play,” Candrea said. “I think the big thing is the mindset. After going through a tough game like that, you have to get them healthy mentally and get their confidence back.

“But at this stage of the game if I need to do that, we’re in trouble because we’re at the College World Series. And as long as you’ve got a game to play, then you should be happy that you’re still playing. And we just have to play Arizona softball. I’m very proud of this team, and always will be proud of this team for the work that they’ve done this year. One inning is not going to spoil that.”