Los Angeles - Junior Olivia Galati struck out 14 and held a potent UCLA lineup to two runs in a complete-game effort as the Hofstra Softball team defeated the 12th-overall seed Bruins, 7-2, in the opening round of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional at Easton Stadium on Friday evening.
Junior Rachael Senatore went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, fellow junior Becca Bigler went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored and senior Krista Thorn blasted a long solo home run as Hofstra registered 12 hits against UCLA's Jessica Hall (19-13).
Hofstra (39-13) will play San Diego State in the winner's bracket on Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern time. The Aztecs defeated Florida State, 1-0, in their opening round game. UCLA (36-19) was 47-3 (.940 winning percentage) in 17 previous Regionals at Easton Stadium and 55-6 (.903) overall in postseason games before the Pride pulled the upset.
Galati extended her school-record winning streak to 29 games in improving to 31-5 (the victory total is also a school record). She also set the Hofstra career strikeout record in the game and held a UCLA offense that entered with a collective .343 average and .586 slugging percentage to no runs through the first five innings and just nine hits overall.
Hofstra won for the 38th time in the last 40 games. It was Hofstra's first NCAA Tournament victory since a 5-2 win over then-No. 14 Oklahoma State in the 2010 Regionals. That game was also the last time Hofstra defeated a ranked opponent in NCAA Regionals.
Down 7-2 in its last at-bat, UCLA started the seventh inning with three consecutive singles to load the bases with nobody out for the second hitter Stephany LaRosa, who homered in her last at-bat. Galati worked a full count before an eight-pitch at bat concluded on a called third strike on the outside black off a Galati changeup for the key first out.
Galati then got Harrison to strike out looking and forced B.B. Bates to fly out to left to secure the win and put the Pride in the winner's bracket.
Hofstra scored six straight runs to start the contest, taking that lead into the bottom of the sixth before LaRosa and Andrea Harrison hit back-to-back home runs to start the sixth. Galati escaped further damage in the inning.
Both teams entered with formidable lineups as 12 combined starters commenced the day with batting averages better than .300 (five for Hofstra, seven for UCLA). But Galati and Hall exchanges scoreless innings through the first two innings before Bigler doubled in a run and scored to give Hofstra a 2-0 edge in the top of the third.
Senior Michelle Lavagnino drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Senatore's well-placed sacrifice bunt. Bigler then plated Lavagnino with a one-hop double down the left field line to open the scoring.
Bigler advanced to third on a ground out with two outs, a
play that proved to be key when Smith's breaking ball to Tessa Ziemba bounced away
to the backstop, allowing Bigler to score on the wild pitch for the two-run
Galati responded to the early run support and added another program record to her ledger in the third, becoming Hofstra's new career strikeout leader when she got Talee Snow swinging with two outs in the inning to break Kayleigh Lotti's previous record of 979. Lotti played from 2006-09.
The Pride mounted a sustained rally in the fourth, getting three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases against Hall. Lavagnino hit a hard line drive but right at Snow at second base. But the left-handed hitting Senatore came up with a clutch two-out, two-strike hit against the southpaw Hall, lacing a hard hit over the shortstop's head that rolled into the gap to score freshman Erin Trippi and senior Courtney Crews for a 4-0 Hofstra lead.
The Pride made it a six-run advantage in the sixth. Crews reached on a single and Lavagnino hit an opposite-field; two-out single to left. Senatore then used her speed to score Crews, hitting a slow chopper to second that Snow couldn't field cleanly. It was ruled a single and a RBI and Bigler followed with a hard-hit single to center to score Lavagnino from second for a 6-0 advantage.
Galati, who struck out seven of the first nine UCLA hitters she faced the first time through the order, escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth, forcing Samantha Camuso to fly out to left on a ball too shallow to allow the runner to tag up. Galati then struck out Dani Yudin to end the threat with her 10th strikeout on the evening. That marked Galati's 17th 10-plus strikeout performance and the sixth straight time she's reached that plateau.
The matchup featured seven combined players who were named to the NFCA's All-Region first-teams, including three from Hofstra and four from UCLA. Galati, Senatore and Ziemba were Northeast Region selections for the Pride while the Bruins were represented in the West Region by Harrison, LaRosa, Katie Schroeder and Camuso.
The Pride added another milestone win over UCLA to its history. Hofstra recorded one of the most memorable wins in the department's history against UCLA when the Pride defeated the No. 1 Bruins, 10-5, in 2000. That marked the first win over a national top-ranked opponent in school history.