When UCLA decided to intentionally walk Alysha Everett in a tie game in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday afternoon, Laura Berg yelled to Natalie Hampton to take it personal.
“And she did, apparently,” Berg, Oregon State's softball coach, said not long after Hampton made the Bruins pay for that decision.
Hampton, Oregon State’s career RBI leader, added to that total with a monsterous home run over the right field fence that landed close to the Hilton Garden Inn.
Oregon State 8, UCLA 5.
“I saw it fat,” said Hampton, who has five homers and 33 RBIs in the season. “I wasn’t thinking too much and I think that’s what I needed to do. She had me two strikes and I said, OK if she’s going to give me a pitch to hit, I’m going to try to put a good swing on it and get Shelby (Weeks) to score.”
The victory also gave the Beavers (21-18, 4-8 Pac-12) their first ever series win over the No. 8/9 Bruins (29-12, 5-7). OSU won Thursday’s opener 8-0 in five innings, then lost 7-5 on Friday after falling behind 7-0.
The players were unaware of that possibility until Berg told them to make history prior to the game.
“Coach Beg said it to us before the game as if we weren’t juiced enough to play this game at home. It definitely took us there."
Said Berg: “Awesome for these guys. I’m pumped. They earned it.”
Indeed, they did.
The Beavers trailed 5-4 heading to their last at-bat when Jessica Garcia opened the seventh with a single, her third hit of the game, and went to second on a sacrifice bunt from McKenna Arriola.
Weeks grounded one to shortstop Delaney Spaulding, who threw to Brianna Tautalafua at third. With Garcia sliding at third, the ball popped out of Tautalafua’s glove and got away to allow Garcia to scored and tie the game.
The Bruins then walked Everett to set up a force at any base, or a potential game-ending double play.
But Hampton turned on Rachel Garcia’s pitch to send the Beavers into a frenzy.
“I made sure to hurry around the bases to see my girls at home,” said Hampton, who later got doused with water while doing a television interview. "I’ll probably never forget this moment. It’s pretty cool.”
After falling behind 1-0 on Spaulding’s leadoff homer in the first, the Beavers took a 3-0 lead in the fourth on Lovie Lopez’s three-run homer that cleared the left field fence to drive in Hampton and Sammi Noland.
UCLA threatened in the fifth, then regained the lead in the sixth, thanks to a three-run homer from Bubba Nickles in the sixth.
The Bruins tacked on another run for a 5-3 edge.
But the Beavers never got down.
“Even when UCLA got those (four) runs, they fought,” Berg said. “There was never that lull in the dugout. We still felt like we had the momentum in our dugout.”
The Beavers got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning. Everett opened the sixth with a single and Hampton hit a grounder to the first baseman, who hesitated before throwing to second and pinch runner Riley Gregoire beat the throw to put runners at first and second.
With two outs, pinch-hitter Katy McJunkin lined one off Garcia’s glove and was safe as Gregoire came in to score and make it 5-4.
Nerissa Eason kept the deficit at a run to set up the Beavers’ comeback in the bottom of the seventh.
She earned the win with 1⅓ innings of relief. Taylor Cotton went the first 5⅔ innings and allowed five runs on 10 hits. She gave up four of those runs and four hits in the sixth.
Until then, she had allowed just one run over 10 innings against the Bruins this series.
“Taylor did a great job, kept them off-balanced, made them hit a lot of popups,” Berg said. “That’s kind of her forte which is great. She stayed ahead of the hitter. When she started to get hit was when she fell behind the hitters. But hey, we got the win so we’re good.”
Hampton was 2 for 4 with the three RBIs and two runs scored and Lopez added three RBIs on her homer to lead the Beavers.
Oregon State hosts Portland State on Tuesday before hosting Stanford for a three-game Pac-12 series on Friday.