No. 24 Arizona couldn’t contain No. 2 UCLA’s explosive offense or find answers from the plate, losing to the Bruins 8-0 to record its eighth straight Pac-12 loss on Friday evening in front of a sold-out crowd at Hillenbrand Stadium.
UCLA starting pitcher Megan Faraimo (20-2) pitched six innings, allowing five hits with six strikeouts.
“We let some of those two-strike outs get away from us and chased a little bit, but for some of their first time facing her (Faraimo), I was really proud of their approach,” Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said. “We didn’t complete all of the at bats, but I think that’s where we get gritty the next time we see her and we’re able to make those adjustments.”
As for what it will take to pull themselves out of this eight-game conference skid, Lowe believes it will take a little bit of all of the above.
“I just think everything has to be clicking. We have to have good pitching, but then throwing into our defense and then scoring in the right fashion,” she said. “They executed big on three pitches, I thought, and we put runners in scoring position again, and we just have to get the team in.”
The matchup against the Bruins marked the first time two former Wildcats, Sharlize Palacios and Janelle Meono, faced Arizona after transferring to UCLA in the offseason. Palacios and Meono played three seasons with Arizona.
Aissa Silva got Arizona off to a good start from the circle holding UCLA to a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first. Faraimo matched Silva’s 1-2-3 inning with one of her own in the bottom of the inning, striking out Dakota Kennedy and Allie Skaggs.
Palacios, an All-Pac-12 performer last season for Arizona before transferring to UCLA, was largely booed by the Hillenbrand faithful in her first at-bat in the top of the second inning. The crowd went wild when she struck out. But after Savannah Pola and Anna Vines singled, Kennedy Powell hit a three-run homer over the centerfield wall to give UCLA (37-4, 13-3 Pac-12) a 3-0 lead.
Meono received jeers from the home crowd before grounding out to end the top of the inning.
In the top of the third, Megan Grant singled up the middle before Maya Brady homered to left center field, raising UCLA’s lead to 5-0.
Ali Blanchard would then replace Silva on the circle.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Paige Dimler singled to shortstop, and Kennedy singled on a bunt fielded by Palacios near the plate to give Arizona a sign of life. Olivia DiNardo grounded out to second, advancing the two runners, but Skaggs flied out to right field to end the inning.
Blaise Biringer singled to center field with one out in the bottom of the fourth, but Faraimo struck out Perezchica and Tayler Biehl to close out the inning.
Aaliyah Jordan added to the Bruins’ lead with a solo homer in the top of the fifth.
Skaggs reached base on an error by Brady at shortstop to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Devyn Netz followed the at-bat with a walk to put two runners on base. Biringer would reach base on a fielder’s choice, with Skaggs called out at third. Perezchica followed Birniger by grounding out to second base and advancing the runners to second and third. The inning came to an end when Biehl grounded out to third to strand both runners.
In the top of the seventh, Jordan crushed a two-run double to right field, extending UCLA’s lead to 8-0.
Sydney Somerndike then replaced Blanchard and finished the game on the circle for Arizona.
Senior Izzy Pacho pinch hit for Dimler in the bottom of the seventh in her first appearance in two weeks after taking time off for personal reasons. She singled down the right field line to advance Sophia Carroll to third, before Dimler returned to pinch run for her.
Kennedy was hit by a pitch to load the bases, before DiNardo popped out on the next at-bat. Skaggs and Netz would strike out looking to end the game.
Arizona stranded 10 runners on base on Friday evening.
Arizona (24-16, 3-10) plays game two of the series against UCLA tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Hilenbrand Stadium.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.