WESTWOOD—Since 1978, no senior class left UCLA softball without a ring. That tradition ended after the team failed to win a championship for five straight years, but on June 8, in Oklahoma City that tradition was restored. Seniors Megan Langenfield, Julie Burney and Kaila Shull will all end their careers with a ring on their finger after UCLA handled the Arizona Wildcats from start to finish in game two of the Championship Series and captured the 11th National Championship for softball at UCLA.
Senior leadership was key for the Bruins throughout their remarkable run in the postseason, and that leadership was shone brightly by Langenfield every time she stepped on the field or into the batter’s box. In game one of the series, held on June 7, Langenfield was involved in a little bit of everything. Despite giving up the lead during the top of the seventh inning, she still managed to hold the high-powered Wildcat offense to only two runs for six innings while striking out five batters. Offensively, Langenfield was as close to perfection as it gets. With two outs already on the board and looking at 3-2 count, Langenfield sent the ball flying over the fence to bring the game to a tie. In the bottom of the third inning Gionna DiSalvatore gave UCLA the lead after Langenfield brought her in from third base with a single.
After two scoreless innings the Wildcats tied the game for the second time during the top of the sixth inning, but like the first inning the Bruins struck right back and took a 4-2 lead off a double by Monica Harrison that barely grazed the white line to stay fair.
With the game seemingly in hand heading into what was supposed to be the final inning, the Wildcats showed the resolve that got them to the finals and belted back to back home runs off Langenfield to take a 5-4 lead. This brought sophomore transfer Aleah Macon up to the mound as a relief pitcher to stop the bleeding and the Bruins got out of the inning down by one run. It was now Arizona’s turn to feel like the game was over, but just like the Bruins the fortunately had their hearts broken. Freshman pitcher Kenzie Fowler had already put the first two batters away for Arizona and with only one out left it looked like the Wildcats would complete their comeback victory, but a little luck allowed the Bruins to stay alive.
A mix-up in the outfield on a pop-fly by Shull caused the center fielder and left fielder for Arizona to collide which allowed the tying run to cross the plate. The Bruins were unable to bring in anymore runs and the game went into extra innings. Macon got into some trouble late in the top of the eighth inning, but with two outs and the bases loaded Macon struck out Stacie Chambers looking. This postseason, when a batter was facing two strikes or two outs for the Bruins the bats just came to life and that held true in the bottom of the eighth inning. Langenfield had the hot bat all night, going 3-4 with a home run already in the game, but for some reason the Arizona coaching staff decided to pitch to her and she made them pay. After serving off the first pitch, Langenfield sent the second pitch over the wall for the second time to give the Bruins the walk-off victory.
Going into the second game, fans and sports enthusiasts expected a repeat performance from the day before. Both teams had strong offenses and were capable of putting runs on the board in a hurry. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their offense did not get into the game until the fourth inning and by then the game was already out of reach. Langenfield got things started again in the first inning with a two-run shot to left field to give the Bruins the early 2-0 lead. In the second inning Arizona finally came to their senses and intentionally walked Langenfield to load the bases. What the Wildcats failed to realize was that the Bruins lineup from top to bottom were all home run hitters and Andrea Harrison proved that with her fourth home run during the Women’s College World Series and her first career grand slam. Arizona was now staring at a 6-0 deficit that they would never recover from. During the fourth inning the Wildcats made it interesting again by scoring three runs to only be down 7-4, but the Bruins put them to bed in the fifth by scoring seven more runs, including a three-run bomb by senior Julie Burney to put the Bruins up 14-4. The Bruins brought up 12 batters that inning and crushed the little hope left in the Arizona dugout.
Even though it was futile, the Wildcats continued to plug away thanks to two home runs by Stacie Chambers that brought in a total of four runs and an RBI single by Brittany Last rapes, but another home run by Samantha Camuso during the top of the sixth gave the Bruins their 15th run and blew out any remaining flames of hope for the Arizona Wildcats.
The strikeout of Lauren Schutzler by relief pitcher Donna Kerr to end the game was merely a formality and the Bruins rushed the field to celebrate a fantastic finish to their season. Throughout both games UCLA was inspired by the death of Bruin legendary coach John Wooden and every player, including the coached, wore armbands with the initials J.W. on them to help the remember what UCLA stands for. The moment was especially sweet for the seniors who graduated at the end of the week. There is no better way to end a career at UCLA than on top.
“Winning the WCWS was the most amazing feeling in the whole world!! It still hasn’t fully set in though that we are National Champions. It has been a rush to get everything done before I have to leave the dorms. I have things I have to turn in, I had my final this evening, I have a paper to still finish, packing to do, books to turn in, and final things to wrap up with the team. I could not have asked for a better way to end my career though. It was great! I love my team, they made this year the most fun year ever! I wouldn’t trade one part of it for anything! I will have the memories forever, and I am so proud to be able to be a part of the history for the UCLA Softball program and for UCLA athletics,” said Senior Kaila Shull on how it felt to be a part of the team this season.
Winning the National Championship was not the only impressive aspect of their postseason —it was how they got there. As a team UCLA smashed the school record for home runs in a season by posting 108 long balls. Their uncanny ability to keep the ball on the other side of the fence was one of the many reasons the Bruins were in the position they were in. Megan Langenfield went 12-17 in the two games and was rightfully named the Most Outstanding Player for the WCWS. The offense records for the WCWS have been almost completely rewritten by the Bruins and even though the 106thNational Championship for UCLA is still fresh in the players’ minds. Next season they plan to be right back in Oklahoma City reasserting their dominance over college softball.