A lead-off home run by Bubba Nickles fueled UCLA (52-6) to a 7-2 win over the Gophers (46-13) in the first round of the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City on Thursday afternoon.
Minnesota, the No. 7 seed, advanced to the final eight for the first time in program history and had the task of taking down a college softball blue blood, No. 2 UCLA.
The Bruins scored two in the second inning against All-American Amber Fiser to take a 3-0 lead. After that, Fiser routinely got out of trouble until the Bruins got to her with five runs in the sixth inning.
The Gophers barely touched the ball against Rachel Garcia, the player and pitcher of the year in the Pac-12, the first five innings, but they struck in the sixth on an RBI double by Natalie DenHartog and an RBI single by Allie Arneson, who was thrown out to end the inning trying to stretch a single into a double.
UCLA came right back in the bottom of the sixth with two straight singles and then a run coming home on an error to make it a 4-2 game. Then the doors blew open when Aliyah Jordan launched a three-run homer deep into the right-field seats to push the lead to five.
UCLA advances to play Arizona on Friday and the Gophers fall to the elimination bracket where they'll face Washington at 11 a.m. Saturday. If the Gophers lose, they're done. If they win, they'll play the loser of Arizona-UCLA at 6 p.m. Saturday.