Fresno State falls to #2 UCLA despite heroic effort from Hailey Dolcini

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Saturday afternoon, the Fresno State softball team (37-11) were two outs away from moving on to the championship game. Instead, the Dogs fell 5-4 against #2 UCLA (42-4) in eight innings in game 2 of the Los Angeles Regional.

The Bruins beat the Bulldogs 7-0 in FS' season opener and won the 2019 National Championship.

After throwing 133 pitches in game 1 en route to her nation-leading 14th shutout of the season, Hailey Dolcini again took the circle for the Bulldogs against the Bruins. The senior pitcher worked her way in and out of jams all afternoon at Easton Stadium.

The Dogs struggled to find hits against Rachel Garcia, a redshirt senior named to the 2019 US Olympic team, but what looked to be the biggest hit of the game came in the fifth inning. Freshman Avery Lawley (Buchanan HS) doubled off the wall in left field to drive in the game's first run.

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Down to their final two outs, the Bruins tied the game thanks to a Garcia RBI single off the wall in right. She then shut down the FS offense to send the game into extra innings.

In the top of the eighth, the UCLA offense finally broke through on Dolcini scratching across three more runs. Interim head coach Jodie Cox then pulled Dolcini after 144 pitches, 11 hits and 4 earned runs.

The Bruins scored one more off of sophomore Dariana Orme to take a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th. Down to their final two outs, Miranda Rohleder drove in a pair to make it a 5-3 game. It was the first time since June 4, 2019, that Garcia allowed more than one earned run in an outing.

The Dogs then loaded the bases and a fielder's choice scored a run to made it a 5-4 game, but Garcia struck out Julianna Martinez (Clovis West) to end the game.

There are a pair of Central Valley connections to this Bruins team. Bubba Nickles, a Merced native who was named to the US Olympic team in 2019, sat out Saturday's game with an injury. Maya Brady, the daughter of former FS All-American Maureen Brady and niece to NFL quarterback Tom Brady, was named Softball America's Freshman Player of the Year in 2020.

The Bruins now advance to the championship game, which will be played Sunday at 3:00 PM, while the Dogs fall to the elimination bracket to take on the winner of Long Beach State and #24 Minnesota later tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM on Saturday night.

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It's FS's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2017. The team won the national championship back in 1998.
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