Maya Brady and UCLA defeat Georgia, move to cusp of Women's College World Series

The crack of the ball off Maya Brady’s bat in the first inning sent a swift, loud message.

“Storm’s a Bruin,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “We’re here.”

Brady, the back-to-back Pac-12 Conference player of the year, went three for four at the plate with two home runs in UCLA’s six-inning, 8-0 win over No. 11 Georgia in the first game of the Los Angeles Super Regional on Thursday. The No. 6 Bruins (41-10) can clinch a berth to the World Series with a win Friday at 7 p.m. at Easton Stadium in the best-of-three series.

UCLA is trying to make its eighth World Series appearance in nine years. The only blemish was last year’s winless postseason when the Bruins shockingly failed to advance out of the regional for the first time since 2013. The flop was traumatic enough for Inouye-Perez to hire a mental performance coach. Armando Gonzalez has counseled the team all season, putting players at ease by saying any outcome is “already written.”

“For us, it honestly lifts a weight off of us,” Brady said. “Yes, we obviously have a say in our performance, but at the end of the day, there’s an outcome that’s already written that no matter if we strike out or we go four for four, that was the outcome that was supposed to happen. I think for us, it just allows us to kind of let go and play free.”

Including UCLA’s three wins in the regional round last weekend, Brady is nine for 12 in four postseason games with six extra-base hits and five RBIs. Her leadoff home run in the fifth inning sparked a four-run burst highlighted by a three-run homer from Jordan Woolery that transformed a tight two-run game into a run-rule watch. Junior Savannah Pola clinched UCLA’s first super regional run-rule win since 2010 with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth.

The Bruins, who won the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles, have won 12 consecutive games and 24 of their last 26. Brady raised her eyebrows in surprise when she heard the stats at the postgame news conference.

Along with her electric bat, the shortstop helped turn two double plays on defense to support freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Terry, who gave up four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in six innings.

The left-hander allowed a baserunner in each of the first five innings — three walks and two singles — but effortlessly worked her way out of danger with the help of her defense.

Left fielder Jadelyn Allchin’s diving catch in the second inning set the tone for the defense. Woolery caught a ball in foul territory while sliding to her knee in the third inning after Terry gave up a leadoff single. The pitcher gave up a leadoff walk in the fourth, but Brady erased it flawlessly, taking a hard-hit ball from Georgia’s Sara Mosley off the bounce, tagging second and firing the ball to Woolery at first.

Terry gave up four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in a complete-game victory. She faced her biggest threat in the sixth with runners on the corners and two outs, but used a devastating off-speed pitch to freeze Georgia’s Lyndi Raw Davis. Terry stomped her foot and whipped her fist in the air and the Bulldogs catcher trudged back to the dugout.

The Bruins avenged a 7-2 loss to the Bulldogs (43-18) from Feb. 16. Gonzalez reminded the Bruins of the loss before the game, emphasizing they were a different team than the one that struggled in tournament play. The loss, UCLA’s first to Georgia since 2012, dropped the Bruins to 3-4, their worst start since 1986.

“This team in ’24 in the beginning was carrying the burden of figuring out who we were,” Inouye-Perez said.

The 18-year coach recalled a favorite quote: “She remembered who she was and the game changed.” The Bruins remembered that while they weren’t getting the outcomes early, they still had the ability to be the perennial championship contenders who lead the nation with 12 NCAA titles.

“We understand our sport so that has freed up the pressure of what we need to do or for UCLA,” Inouye-Perez said. “They’re just playing ball, which I love. … When they play freely, man, we see some serious Bruin magic.”

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