Oregon State softball coach Laura Berg called it “awesome” to see what her team accomplished Thursday.
The Beavers defeated visiting UCLA 8-0 in five innings to run-rule the perennial power Bruins for the first time in program history.
Alysha Everett had four RBIs and Natalie Hampton a three-run home run. Taylor Cotton pitched a two-hitter with four strikeouts and no walks with a solid defense behind her against a team averaging nearly five runs a game.
But Berg was left frustrated in wondering where that kind of effort has been as her team dropped to near the .500 mark overall after a 2-7 start in Pac-12 play.
The coach said she’s told her team all season that the potential was there, and Thursday they finally saw that.
“It goes to show that we can play with anybody. UCLA is not a pretty good team. They’re a very good team,” Berg said of the Bruins, ranked eighth and ninth in the national polls this week. “They’re ranked that high for a reason. For us to come out and play solid softball is awesome to see.”
The Beavers (20-17, 3-7) broke through in the third with four runs against Rachel Garcia, who threw 10 shutout innings last weekend in helping hand Oregon its first two losses of the season in Los Angeles.
Garcia issued consecutive one-out walks to McKenna Arriola and Shelby Weeks before Everett lined a single through the right side to give OSU a 1-0 lead.
Hampton then sent a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence for a three-run home run, adding to her lead on top of the school’s career RBI list, which she claimed at Washington last Saturday.
That chased Garcia — the conference’s reigning pitcher and freshman of the week — who yielded four hits, four earned runs and two walks with two strikeouts in 2⅓ innings.
Berg said the key to the success against Garcia was hitting pitches in the zone and taking advantage of mistakes.
Cotton sent the Bruins (28-11, 4-6) down 1-2-3 in the fourth while facing their top power hitters in Brianna Tautalafua and Madeline Jelenicki, who have a combined 19 home runs this season.
“They were just all the same to me,” Cotton said. “If they’re a lefty or righty, I don’t really look. Just make sure I hit my spot.”
OSU’s batter quickly got back to the plate and wasted no time as the first four batters reached base safely.
An infield single and two walks brought up Everett, who cleared the bases with a double lined into the gap in right center. Three batters later, Sammi Noland grounded a single up the middle to set the run-rule possibility with the eight-run margin.
Everett is swinging a hot bat the past few weeks. The junior infielder is 11 for 21 with 16 RBIs in the last six games.
Cotton and the defense made it possible in the top of the fifth.
Arriola, OSU’s shortstop, made a challenging stop on a Paige Halstead grounder and threw to first for the initial out. Cotton then struck out Bubba Nickles looking and got Gabrielle Maurice to ground out to second to finish it as the Beavers picked up their biggest win of the season.
Now the question is how to carry that momentum forward with Friday and Saturday games against a motivated UCLA squad at OSU Softball Complex.
“I think it’s just really our intensity, coming out in the beginning and showing that we’re here to play,” Everett said.
Cotton, a senior from Lincoln, California, whose 8-year-old brother Chase was the Beavers’ ball boy Thursday, lowered her season earned-run average from 2.24 to 2.01. She’s given up just one earned run in her past 11 innings.
Cotton (8-4) finished with just the two hits allowed, a Delaney Spaulding leadoff single in the first and Halstead’s one-out one-bagger in the second. She credited the success she had with the riseball and getting hitters to swing at pitches high in the zone, resulting in several pop-ups and fly balls to the outfield.
Halstead stole second with two outs but was stranded there as Cotton struck out Maurice. That was the only Bruins runner to get past first.
“Taylor did a great job getting ahead of the hitters,” Berg said. “She’s a lefty pitcher, and lefty pitchers are tough. She did a really good job of keeping them off-balance and getting ahead.”