OKLAHOMA CITY — There was suspense on every pitch Sunday at an overflowing OGE Field. You could feel the tension in the stands, and it got more intense as the innings passed without a run.
Three innings, six innings, then nine innings.
And then, in the 10th inning, UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, the two-time player of the year, ended it with one violent swing, sending Gabbie Plain’s pitch over the wall in left field to give UCLA a 3-0 win in the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series, ending UW’s season.
“When you get to these types of games and it’s the 10th inning and it’s a 0-0 ballgame, it can go one of two ways and it’s never going to be easy when it’s one swing changes the game and all of a sudden your career is over,” said UW senior pitcher Taran Alvelo, battling tears.
With Plain (24-1), a first-team All-American, pitching against Garcia (27-2), one run could very likely have been enough, and everyone knew it. The Huskies had chance after chance to get that run, but couldn’t capitalize in a game that lived up to its billing and then some.
Garcia allowed 10 runners from the fifth to the ninth innings, but escaped time after time, throwing 179 pitches over the 10 innings to beat UW (52-9) for the third time this year.
“My adrenaline was kicking in even more and I wasn’t feeling anything,” Garcia said, with ice on her right arm. “After every inning we would go into the training room, and (assistant) coach Lisa Fernandez would tell me, ‘You’ve got this. You’re mentally prepared for this moment and you are going to keep going.’ “
UW’s best chance in the first five innings came in the fifth, when Emma Helm led off with a double, but she got no farther.
In the sixth and seventh and eighth innings, the Huskies had runners on first and second with one out, but Garcia would not buckle, with the biggest out coming when she struck out Madison Huskey with the bases loaded in the eighth to end a threat — again.
“The hard part is we had so many chances,” said UW coach Heather Tarr, whose team was 0-4 against UCLA this season. “We left 12 runners on base, they left eight. In the end, they got the timely hit.”
Plain was cruising, retiring 10 straight hitters before walking the leadoff hitter in the seventh inning. Tarr brought in Alvelo, who the night before threw a 1-0 shutout against Oklahoma State and struck out 16.
Alvelo entered Sunday’s game in the same form, striking out the first two hitters she faced, then got a fly out.
For a brief moment, it looked like UCLA had won the game in the bottom of the eighth, as with runners at first and second, Garcia hit a bullet to deep left field that seemed destined for a game-winning hit, but freshman Sami Reynolds made a great running catch and the game continued.
Two innings later, Garcia got another chance. After Alvelo opened the 10th by allowing a leadoff single, Plain was reinserted as the pitcher. She got two quick outs, then allowed a single to set the stage for Garcia.
This time, she hit one too far for anyone to catch.
“When I saw that changeup, I knew I had to hit it,” Garcia said.
When she did, it meant UCLA was moving to the championship series while Washington was unable to get there for a second straight year after losing in the best-of-three final to Florida State last year.
“You never know when the end is the end,” Tarr said. “It stinks when you’re not the home team and you can’t do that to the other team. You don’t score, and you leave it up to them.”