Gabby Maurice and Allie Walljasper have traveled to Oklahoma City in the past – as teammates.
On Thursday in the first round of the Women’s College World Series, they’ll return to OKC – as opponents.
Maurice, the Johansen High graduate and four-year starter in the outfield for UCLA, wraps up a memorable career. Walljasper, the former Sierra High star and an LSU junior, is the Tigers’ scheduled starting pitcher..
“I know she (Walljasper) is a great pitcher, and she’s had success recently and we’re excited to go against her,” Maurice said. “She has great control and movement on her pitches. She is a great girl from a great family.”
Maurice and Walljasper were members of the California Grapettes, who qualified for the 12-Under Nationals at Oklahoma City. Their paths have crossed in the college ranks. No. 5 seed UCLA (47-13) and 13th-seeded LSU (47-20) have qualified for the WCWS the last three years, and they met in February. Walljasper, appearing in relief, allowed a run in the eighth in a 6-5 loss.
Maurice batted only .222 this season and struggled through an early-season slump. Her hitting lately, however, has improved. She has hits in six of her last eight games and went 3-for-8 in last week’s two-game sweep over Ole Miss in the Super Regional. Maurice had an RBI in UCLA’s dramatic 8-7 win in 11 innings in Game 1. The Bruins have won 18 of 19.
Maurice has started in 225 of her 228 career games at UCLA. She missed three starts as a freshman.
“It’s flown by. I’ve enjoyed every minute,” Maurice said. “The alumni has created a great path for us.”
225 Career starts for UCLA outfielder Gabby Maurice
The former Johansen star was aware of the expectations when she signed at UCLA. The Bruins have won 11 World Series titles, the last in 2010. UCLA went 2-and-out last year for the first time, however, which is not good enough for the tradition-steeped program.
“I love when we’re held to a greater standard academically and athletically,” Maurice said. “There are no low standards at UCLA. You get reminded of it every day.”
Maurice has worked alongside freshman centerfielder and Merced High graduate Madilyn “Bubba” Nickles all season. Nickles, the former Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year and a MaxPreps All-American, has been a part of UCLA’s reloading this season.
Nickles has batted .285 and is only the seventh Bruin freshman to post double-digit home runs (10). Her game-tying two-out two-run double in the 10th inning kept UCLA alive in the four-hour marathon win over Ole Miss. She has stroked hits in 15 of her last 27 games.
“She (Nickles) has been clutch. She has done whatever needs to be done for the team,” Maurice praised. “We have a good freshman class. She will be great for the program.”
The 6-foot-2 Walljasper is 17-5 with an ERA of 1.37, including 97 strikeouts in 153 innings. She has contributed to LSU’s amazing survival. The Tigers have won 10 elimination games this season and 15 over the last three years. No other team has more than eight.
The Stanislaus District also is represented in Thursday’s WCWS matchup between No. 3 seed Oregon (52-6) and No. 6 seed Washington (48-12).
The Huskies have enjoyed a big freshman season by second baseman and Ceres High product Nicole “Sis” Bates. She has started all 60 games and is batting .355 with 32 RBIs.
Oregon sophomore outfielder Cherish Burks, an East Union graduate, has appeared in only 27 games this season and has three RBIs.