May 10, 2002
LOS ANGELES - The top-ranked UCLA softball team earned a key Pac-10 victory on Friday afternoon at Easton Stadium, defeating No. 2 Arizona by a 4-2 margin. The victory gives the Bruins a one-game lead in the Pac-10 standings with two games to play, and gives UCLA the tiebreaker over Arizona should the teams finish with identical Pac-10 records.
Arizona's Lovieanne Jung got the game off to a hot start, hitting the first pitch of the game from UCLA's Keira Goerl over the right field fence, giving the Cats a 1-0 lead.
UCLA would not counter until the third inning, when Natasha Watley opened the rally with a one-out triple that hit the right field fence, and was scored on a single to left by Tairia Mims. Stacey Nuveman then stepped to the plate and added to her NCAA career home run record, hitting her third home run off of UA star Jennie Finch in as many at-bats. It was the 18th home run of the season for Nuveman, the 88th of her career, and it gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead after three complete innings.
Arizona fought back in the top of the fourth, as two walks and a single loaded the bases.for Courtney Fossatti. Fossatti hit a slow ground ball to Toria Auelua at third base, and Auelua's throw to the plate hit base runner Carrie Hagen in the back of the head, allowing her to score on the throwing error. Goerl then struck out Finch and got Leneah Manuma to ground out to end the inning. The Cats would threaten again in the sixth, getting runners on first and second base with one out on an error and an infield hit, before pinch-hitter Candace Abrams struck out and Finch grounded out to end the inning.
The Bruins added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Auelua hit a two-out double to right, and was pinch-run for by Erin Rahn. Rahn came around to score in the next at-bat, as right fielder Monique Mejia posted an RBI single to right field.
Keira Goerl finished with 12 strikeouts on the day for UCLA, her fifth double-figure strikeout game of her last seven games in the circle.
The win gives UCLA the tiebreaker over Arizona for the Pac-10 Championship, should the two teams finish with identical conference records, because UCLA has won two of its three games against the Cats. With one win on Saturday against Arizona State, UCLA will clinch the Pac-10 Championship and the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament that goes with it.
UCLA concludes its regular season schedule on Saturday afternoon at Easton Stadium with a 1 pm doubleheader against No. 4 Arizona State. Prior to the day's first pitch, UCLA will honor its five seniors, Crissy Buck, Amanda Freed, Casey Hiraiwa, Stacey Nuveman and Erin Rahn.