Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
via UCLA Softball
Softball season is here! And with it comes another season of high expectations for fouth-year head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez and her loaded Bruin squad. After a disappointing finish in 2009 that saw the team fall just short of the Women's College World Series, this year's team is hungry to improve from where they left off:
From the Daily Bruin:
"We didn’t want to look back at last season, but focus on this season and the future," senior pitcher Megan Langenfeld said. "You learn from the past but you don’t need to dwell on it, so we learned our lesson from last year and we were real excited to get going."
The #4 Bruins (5-1) return 7 of 8 position players and the entire pitching staff from last year's Pac-10 Championship team. Joining the veterans are 4 highly-touted freshmen including outfielder B.B. Bates as well as sophomore transfer pitcher Aleah Macon. With such a strong foundation it's easy to see why expectations are high.
The goal is the same every year: win a national championship. But it's important not to look too far ahead, especially when 3 out of your first 4 games are against top 20 teams. Such was the case last weekend at the Dot Richardson Invitational in Claremont, FL. The inagural tournament, hosted former Bruin "Dr. Dot," was a homecoming of sorts for Junior 2B GiOnna DiSalvatore, a Florida native. With the first official day of competition rained out on Friday, the Bruins began their season on Saturday by overwhelming unranked Florida Atlantic University 11-0 in 5 innings. Immediately following FAU, the team was expecting to face their first real challenge of the year against #16 Tennessee. The two team's last meeting came in 2007, Inouye-Perez's first year, and ended in a 6-1 Volunteer victory. Things started off slow, but thanks to clutch hitting by Langenfeld and her teammates GiOnna DiSalvatore and Monica Harrison (along with a few timely Tennessee errors), the Bruins erased any memory from 2007 with an 11-1 victory.
The Bruins would get no time to rest as play continued Sunday morning against #3 Michigan. The rivalry bewtween these two programs goes back to Game 3 of the 2005 WCWS Championship where a walk-off home run by Michigan gave the Wolverines their first national title at the expense of Anjelica Selden and UCLA. Since that painful moment, the two teams have split, each team earning 1 win against the other. It was clear from the 1st inning in Clermont that it was going to be a pitcher's duel between Michigan's Jordan Taylor and UCLA's Langenfeld. The game remained scoreless after the regulation 7 innings, with each team only managing 2 hits. The game would eventually drag through 13 innings, during which UCLA came back to tie the game twice aginst the surging Wolverines. 2 runs by Michigan in the13th off of a weary Langenfeld finally ended up being too much for the Bruins to overcome as they fell 2-4.
Despite the poor Michigan performance and undoubted exhaustion the players must have felt, the Bruins came out fired up for the final game of the weekend against #7 Georgia. Perhaps Junior outfielder Katie Schroder explained it best:
"After the loss, we were just ready to take it to the next team and the next team just happened to be Georgia."
Via Daily Bruin
UCLA is very familar with Georgia, they were paired up in the 2008 Super Regional that eventually sent UCLA to the WCWS. Georgia came in with all the hype this time around, however, after a deep post-season run in 2009 that saw them come just one game short of the final championship series in Oklahoma City. In Clermont, Georgia struck first and held a 2-1 lead going into the 6th inning, but the Bruins were right on their heels. A roaring triple in the left-center gap by freshman B.B. Bates tied the game at two and was immediately followed by a hard ground ball by sophomore Andrea Harrison that went right between the legs of the Georgia shortstop to score Bates from third. The Bruins would finish with 6 hits in a 3-2 victory.
Discounting the Michigan game, UCLA had a good offensive showing in Florida. Just as important was the impressive showing by our pitchers, particularly Langenfeld and Junior Donna Kerr. The future looks bright for transfer Aleah Macon as well, who earned saves in both the FAU and Tennessee games and her first win vs UC Santa Barbara, all without giving up an earned run. Freshman Destiny Rodino also saw action aginst UCSB and did now allow a run. And let's not forget about junior Whitney Baker. Although her career has been plagued with injury, she has the potential for huge strikeout numbers. A softball team with 5 quiality pitchers is certainly rare, and it will be a tough for Inouye-Perez to sort out her depth chart. From the outside looking in, the order will probably be Langenfeld, Kerr, then Macon, with Rodino and Baker seeing limited action against lower-level opposition.
Witnessing the talent, chemistry, and positive attitudes flowing through this team gets me really excited to see what they can can do on the big stage. It goes without saying that anything less than the WCWS would be a gigantic disappointment, but I prefer not to think that far ahead. UCLA hosts the Stacey Winsberg Memorial Tournament this weekend at Easton Stadium. The Bruins take on Cal State Northridge at 4:00PM today and Cal Poly right after at 6:30. Games continue through Sunday, with another home contest scheduled for Wednesday the 24th against Cal State Fullerton. Next weekend the Bruins travel to Palm Springs to take on some stiff competition at the Cathedral City Classic, including #15 Texas, #14 Ohio State, and #21 Northwestern.
I hope to see some of you at a few games this year! Looking forward to a great season. Follow UCLA Softball on twitter here.