The No. 14 Wildcats committed two errors that led to six unearned runs, spoiling what would have been a game-winning grand slam by junior catcher Griffin Joiner.
Instead, it was UCLA's Delaney Spaulding who played the hero's role, blasting a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning to help the Bruins take a commanding lead in the best-of-three series. UK had walked national player of the year candidate Ally Carda with an open base in order to face Spaulding, who recovered from a two-strike hole to hit her home run over the left field wall.
The series will resume with Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Game 3, if necessary, will be played immediately after with both games airing on ESPNU.
Kentucky (47-17) fell behind in the second inning after an error in right field with the bases loaded plated two runs without the benefit of a hit for UCLA. The Cats bounced back with four in their next at-bat, highlighted by Joiner's second grand slam of the season and the first ever by a UK player in the NCAA Tournament.
The lead held up until the sixth inning when the Bruins finally got to UK ace Kelsey Nunley (27-9). She allowed six runs, but none earned thanks to the second error of the day, giving up just four hits and striking out two.
UCLA (52-6) had pitched three consecutive shutouts in the NCAA Tournament before running into the hot-hitting UK squad. Bruins ace Carda (32-4) earned the win, overcoming four earned runs in seven innings by striking out eight and getting error-free defense behind her.