May 19, 2002
COLUMBIA, SC - After dropping its first game of the day by allowing two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the top-ranked UCLA softball team rode a tremendous pitching performance by sophomore Keira Goerl to a 1-0 victory over host South Carolina and the 2002 NCAA Regional I Championship. Goerl struck out 10 batters, her third double-figure strikeout performance in as many appearances during the Regional. Goerl was named MVP of the Regional.
UCLA started the game hot offensively, with lead-off batter Natasha Watley drawing a walk, and advancing to third on two wild pitches. She would score on a double off the centerfield wall by junior Tairia Mims, giving UCLA a 1-0 lead after one inning. Fortunately for the Bruins, that would be enough offense for Goerl.
Following the first inning, the game turned into an impressive pitchers duel between Goerl and South Carolina freshman Aleca Johnson, who came in to relieve an injured Megan Matthews in the first game of the day and proceeded to allow just six hits and one run with five strikeouts in 9.2 innings in the circle over the course of both games. Two of Johnson's strikeouts were against Bruin slugger Stacey Nuveman, her ninth and 10th strikeouts of the 2002 season.
Goerl matched Johnson's effort, allowing just three hits, striking out 10 and not issuing a walk in the game.
The Gamecocks could manage only four baserunners in the contest, two of which were the result of Bruin errors. South Carolina's biggest threat would come in a tense top of the seventh inning, when Amber Curtis led off with a single to right field. Curtis would advance to second base with one out on the fourth Bruin error of the day, giving South Carolina runners on first and second with one out. Goerl would then strike out Meghan Cornett, leaving UCLA just one out away from the Women's College World Series.
Tia Rogers then stepped to the plate for the Gamecocks, and roped a fly ball into left field. UCLA left fielder Erin Rahn, a defensive replacement in the top of the fifth inning, sprinted back for the ball, reached out with her glove hand at the last second, having the ball land on the heel of her glove. While keeping her balance, Rahn pulled the ball off of the heel of her glove with her free right hand, showing it to third base umpire Doug Zimmerman, who called the final out of the game.
UCLA will play the first game of the 2002 Women's College World Series at 10 am Central Daylight Time on Thursday morning in Oklahoma City. The Bruins will face either Florida State or Georgia Tech, as the Regional 8 Championship is still in progress. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.