After losing Friday to open play in the Los Angeles Regional against San Diego State, Liberty softball fought back to win two games on Saturday to avoid elimination. It included a win over the Regional host and No. 2 national seed UCLA, eliminating the Bruins. The Lady Flames followed that up with a win over Grand Canyon late Saturday night to advance to Sunday’s Regional Final.
Facing elimination throughout the day on Saturday, Liberty picked up one of the biggest wins not only in program history but in the history of the school in any sport as the Lady Flames knocked off #2 UCLA, 2-1. Prior to the win over UCLA, the highest ranked team Liberty had beaten in softball was No. 6, having done so three previous times including earlier this season against Clemson. The win also set a program record for Liberty with the most Top 25 wins (4) in one season.
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead as they led off the bottom of the first with a home run by Megan Grant. That would be the only run the Bruins managed on the day as Liberty starting pitcher Karlie Keeney pitched a gem. She would help keep the score at 1-0 until the top of the 4th when Rachel Roupe’s solo home run tied the game at 1.
In the top of the 7th, with the score still tied at 1, Liberty pinch hitter KC Machado hit the go-ahead and eventual game winning RBI single. Machado stepped to the plate with two outs in the inning and Roupe on second. Her single to left field brought Roupe in as she her headfirst slide was just ahead of the tag, a call that was confirmed after official review.
UCLA finished the season at 52-7 and failed to make it out of its own hosted regional for the first time since 2012. The Lady Bruins had made each of the last seven Women’s College World Series, a streak which began in 2015.
With the win, Liberty stayed alive and advanced to take on Grand Canyon just a few minutes after the conclusion of the game against UCLA. Grand Cnayon had a huge upset Friday night over UCLA and then lost to San Diego State as they fell into the loser’s bracket against the Flames.
Against Grand Canyon, Liberty jumped out to a 4-0 lead and would cruise to a 5-1 win over the Lopes to advance to the regional final on Sunday. It will mark the third time Liberty has reached a regional final in program history, with both of the previous occurrences happening under current head coach Dot Richardson in 2018 and 2021.
Devyn Howard led off the bottom of the first with a single and Roupe hit a two-run home run to take the early 2-0 lead. Additional runs in the fourth and fifth innings would extend the lead. Grand Canyon broke up Keeney’s shutout bid, scoring an unearned run, in the fifth inning, but would not get any closer. The Lopes see their best season in program history end at 47-13.
Liberty takes on San Diego State on Sunday beginning at 6 p.m. on ESPN+. The Lady Flames must defeat the Aztecs twice to advance to the program’s first ever Super Regional. SDSU needs just one win to advance as they have opened regional play at 2-0 with wins over the Flames and Grand Canyon.
San Diego State has won five straight games entering Sunday’s contest which dates back to last week’s Mountain West Championship. On Friday against the Aztecs, Paige Bachman held them to one hit in the first two innings before getting into trouble with two outs in the third, allowing a single and a walk before Cali Decker’s three-run homer broke the scoreless tie. Keeney would enter the circle in relief and gave up an unearned run in the third to make it 4-0. The Aztecs would cruise to the 7-0 victory.
If Liberty wins the first game at 6, the two teams will play immediately with the winner claiming the regional championship and advancing to the Supers. Both games would be on ESPN+.