LOS ANGELES – University of Kentucky junior catcher Griffin Joiner launched her second grand slam of the season in the third inning, but two Wildcat errors led to six unearned runs, lifting No. 3 UCLA to a 6-4 win over No. 14 Kentucky in the opening game of the NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional at Easton Stadium on Saturday.
The best-of-three Super Regional will conclude Sunday with a 3 p.m. ET game two and 6 p.m. ET if necessary winner-take-all game three. Every game from the Super Regional will be televised nationally on ESPNU and available online at ESPN3.com with Holly Rowe and Amanda Freed calling the action. Sunday’s game will mark the 12th time this season UK has played on regional or national television. Live stats from every game will be available at UKathletics.com. A complete game schedule is below.
Kentucky (47-17) held a two-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning before a grand slam by UCLA shortstop Delaney Spaulding put the Bruins on top for good. The rally started with a double to left-centerfield by designated player Jessica Hall before first baseman Alyssa Tiumalu reached on a fielding error in left-centerfield to put runners on second and third with no outs. After a lineout to centerfield and a strikeout, UK walked UCLA’s leading hitter and National Player of the Year candidate, Ally Carda, to load the bases for Spaulding, who hit a two-strike pitch over the wall in leftfield to give the Bruins a 6-4 lead.
The Wildcats fell behind in the second inning after an error in rightfield with the bases loaded scored two runs to put the Bruins up 2-0. The Wildcats responded in the following inning, answering with a four-run rally to take the lead. The rally started with senior outfielder Ginny Carroll earning a one-out walk before back-to-back infield singles from sophomores Christian Stokes and Sylver Samuel loaded the bases. After a pop up for the second out, Joiner worked an eight-pitch at-bat that ended with her second grand slam of the season just fair down the leftfield line. The grand slam was the first ever by a UK player in a NCAA Tournament game.
UK held the lead until the sixth inning behind quality defense with two double plays turned and clutch pitching from sophomore Kelsey Nunley. The star went six innings, allowing four hits and six runs – none earned – with two strikeouts. Nunley received the loss in the game, moving to 27-9 on the season.
Offensively, Joiner collected four RBI – the most RBI by a UK player in a NCAA Tournament game in program history – while Stokes and Samuel each went 1-for-3 with a run scored. Seniors Emily Gaines and Krystal Smith each collected singles. UK’s four runs scored against UCLA snapped a stretch of three straight shutouts by UCLA’s pitching staff. It also marked only the third time this month that the Bruins have allowed four or more runs in a game.
UCLA (52-6) started its ace, Carda, in the circle, with the junior going seven innings, allowing four runs – all earned – on five hits with eight strikeouts. Carda retired 13 of the last 14 UK batters she faced in the game after Joiner’s grand slam. Offensively, UCLA was paced by the grand slam by Spaulding with Hall going 1-for-2 with two runs scored and a double, while Stephany LaRosa and Mysha Sataraka each earning singles.
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NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional – Easton Stadium – Los Angeles, Calif.
Saturday, May 24
No. 3 UCLA def. No. 14 Kentucky 6-4
Sunday, May 25
No. 14 Kentucky (h) vs. No. 3 UCLA (v) – 3 p.m. ET – ESPNU
No. 14 Kentucky (v) vs. No. 3 UCLA (h) – 6 p.m. ET – ESPNU – if necessary