June 23, 2024

After a one-year absence, the winningest softball program in NCAA history is returning to Oklahoma City.

UCLA advanced to the Women’s College World Series with a 6-1 win over No. 11 Georgia at Easton Stadium on Friday, winning the best-of-three super regional 2-0. The No. 6 Bruins will face No. 3 Tennessee or No. 14 Alabama in the first round of the World Series on Thursday.

Sophomore pitcher Taylor Tinsley pitched a complete game, giving up four hits with six strikeouts. She put an exclamation point on the victory by striking out Georgia pinch-hitter Sarah Gordon for the final out, ripping off her face mask and slamming it to the dirt with her blue glove. UCLA’s first player from the state of Georgia jumped into catcher Sharlize Palacios’ arms as the Bruins returned to the World Series for the eighth time in nine years. The 32 World Series appearances are the most of any program.

Tinsley gave up two hits, a walk and a run in the first inning against her home state school but retired the next 14 batters as the Bruins (42-10) methodically built their lead.

After showing her power with two home runs and a double Friday, Maya Brady set the tone Friday with two singles that led to two runs and one RBI. The two-time Pac-12 player of the year carries a seven-game hitting streak to Oklahoma City, where the Bruins will challenge for their first national title since 2019. During the postseason, the star shortstop is 11 for 16 with seven RBIs.

Her hot hitting is rivaled only by Palacios, who launched two home runs for three RBIs Friday. The catcher leads the Bruins with 20 homers and has 11 home runs in her last 18 games.

While Palacios held the regional trophy during an on-camera interview with ESPN immediately after the game, teammates lined up and repeatedly bowed.

The Bruins chased Georgia starter Madison Kerpics after 1 2/3 innings, tagging the right-hander for four hits, two runs and two walks. After throwing 76 pitches in Thursday’s six-inning, run-rule loss, left-hander Lilli Backes returned in relief for the Bulldogs (43-19). She extinguished a two-on, two-out threat in the second inning to maintain a one-run deficit momentarily but couldn’t contain UCLA’s offense while giving up six hits and four runs (three earned) in 4 2/3 innings.

Tinsley was rested after freshman Kaitlyn Terry pitched a complete game Friday. The sophomore had five of her six strikeouts in the fifth inning or later after mainly relying on her defense to produce outs with the ball in the air.

Left fielder Jadelyn Allchin was up for the task.

The transfer from Washington had a diving catch in left-center field Thursday then followed with a sliding catch in shallow left Friday to begin the bottom of the fourth inning. Her defensive effort drew some of the loudest cheers of the night from a capacity crowd that was overflowing into the stairways leading into the stands.

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