LOS ANGELES — The Missouri softball team took an early lead and went on to beat No. 2 UCLA 2-1 on Saturday in the first game of their best-of-three NCAA Super Regional at Easton Field in Los Angeles.
The No. 11 Tigers (49-9) increased their school record season victory total and extended their winning streak to eight. The Bruins (44-10) had their winning streak snapped at nine.
2:30 p.m. Sunday
Game 3 (if necessary)
4:30 p.m. Sunday
Both games will be televised live on ESPNU.
“Overall we played well. We had some timely hitting and aggressive base running that gave us the early lead,” Missouri coach Ehren Earlywine said.
Before Saturday night, the Tigers had never beaten UCLA, going 0-10 all-time versus the Bruins. The Tigers and Bruins played on March 1 with the Bruins winning on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh inning. Earleywine said he thinks the early loss helped the Tigers.
“Playing them in March helped because anytime you play UCLA you think of the mystique," Earlywine said. "After playing them, we realized that they were very similar to us.”
The Missouri offense connected against UCLA ace Megan Langenfeld (16-1, 0.99 ERA) early. Senior second baseman Andee Allen gave Missouri an 1-0 lead with a double to left center field in the second inning. The scoring continued for the Tigers when sophomore center fielder Rhea Taylor tripled with one out in the top of the third inning and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field.
“We did a nice job staying on top of the rise ball and putting the ball in play," Earlywine said. "We only struck out a few times against a great pitcher.”
Allen and Taylor weren’t the only Tigers that played well. Senior right fielder Micaela Minner robbed UCLA second baseman Amanda Kamekona of extra bases in the bottom of the second inning with a diving catch near the right field line.
With all the focus on Langenfeld, Missouri freshman Chelsea Thomas went seven innings and only gave up five hits and one run in the winning effort.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, but I battled and thanks to the offense scoring early and the great plays on defense we were able to take Game 1,” Thomas said.
The Bruins' Dani Yudin lead off the seventh by hitting a home run over the left field wall on a 3-2 pitch to prevent the shutout.
Saturday's victory gives Missouri a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series with Game 2 set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and if necessary a Game 3 at 4:30 p.m. A win Sunday sends Missouri to its fourth Women’s College World Series and first since 1994.