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Softball Gets Back on Track in Lakewood: Runs Off Six Wins in a Row

Let's make it six in a row this week to get the train back on track.
Let's make it six in a row this week to get the train back on track.

As mentioned in this week's non-revenue roundup, heading into the heart of the spring sports season, similar to our baseball team, our softball team is going to get its own round-up, which we'll bring to you on BN every Tuesday (well, except for this initial Wednesday edition). Now, turning to the softball squad, the ladies were looking to bounce back from a split weekend in the Citrus Classic in Florida (losing to Michigan and Auburn, but beating Fordham, Baylor, and Hofstra), and got themselves back into action quickly upon their return to Westwood, taking on Michigan State last Wednesday, just three days after their last Citrus Classic game, in a mid-week tune-up game before going down to Lakewood for the Long Beach State Invitational.

Last Wednesday, the #17-ranked Lady Bruins came out guns blazing, launching 5 homers in a slaughter-rule shortened 5 inning game, with UCLA coming out on top 14-3. The game started off with shaky pitching, with both UCLA starter Jessica Hall and Michigan State starter Carly Nielsen getting torched early. Hall gave the Spartans a pretty good lead after the top of the first, surrendering 3 runs in the opening frame, leading UCLA to the bullpen after just two innings. Fortunately, Nielsen did worse: she only made it through one inning before getting the hook, and not before the Bruins put 5 on the scoreboard. Destiny Rodino came in for the third and held Michigan State to a scoreless, one-hit inning, which was enough to notch her second win on the season. Ally Carda closed it out for UCLA with two innings of strong pitching, surrendering no runs and two hits, while striking out five in just two innings. On the offensive side, the Lady Bruins teed off early and often against Michigan State, grabbing 5 runs in the first, 6 runs in the second, and 3 more in the third. SS Kellie Fox was the big bat of the night, going 2-2 with 2 runs scored, driving in 5 RBI, and launching 2 homers over the Easton Stadium fence. Fox got help from across the board, with freshman 3B Stephany LaRosa (1-3, 2 R, 2 RBI), Samantha Camuso (2-3, 1 R, 3 RBI), and B.B. Bates (1-2, 2 R, 2 RBI), all launching homers.

With Wednesday's demolition of Michigan State complete, the ladies turned their attention to a busy weekend, with five games in three days in the Long Beach State Invitational down the 405 in Lakewood. On Friday, UCLA got their tournament run started against Eastern Kentucky, dropping the hammer on the Colonels 9-1 in a mercy-rule shortened 6 inning game. The Bruins fell behind early, with starter Jessica Hall surrendering a run in the top of the first, but the Bruins' bats came alive in the third inning, notching three runs to take the lead. Hall went the distance on the hill for the Bruins, giving up just the one run on four hits, while striking out seven in a six-inning complete game effort. With the win, Hall notched her eighth victory of the season. On the offensive side, B.B. Bates (1-3, 1 R, 3 RBI) once again lifted off, blasting her fifth homer on the season, while catcher Dani Yudin (1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI) sent her third homer of the year over the wall at Easton Stadium.

In the second half of their Friday doubleheader, the Bruins took on host Long Beach State, and despite taking on the 49ers on their own turf, the Bruins crushed Long Beach State and never gave their fellow SoCal rival a chance, notching a 14-0 victory in a slaughter-rule shortened 5 inning game. Ally Carda was on the hill for the Bruins, going the distance to win her seventh game of the year. Carda came up with a gem, giving up just 2 hits in 5 innings, while notching 7 strikeouts. At the plate, the Bruins got a huge game from freshman 3B Stephany LaRosa (4-4, 1 R, 5 RBI), who laughed her sixth homer of the year.

Saturday was more of the same for UCLA, with the Bruins picking up their fourth consecutive mercy-rule victory, blowing the doors off of Charleston Southern 9-1 in just 5 innings. Jessica Hall was once again on the hill for UCLA, going 4 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 1 run, while fanning seven, all for her ninth win of the year. Destiny Rodino came in from the bullpen and finished the game strong, giving up no hits and no runs, while striking out 2 in her 1 inning of work (which was enough to earn her the save). While super-freshman Stephany LaRosa (0-3) was quiet at the plate against Charleston Southern, CF Katie Schroeder (2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI) and C Dani Yudin (2-2, 1 R, 3 RBI) weren't, launching homers, to go along with Yudin's 3 RBI and Kellie Fox's (1-3, 1 R, 3 RBI) 3 RBI performance.

Sunday would be a different animal altogether, as UCLA started off their final day of the weekend tournament with a doubleheader, beginning against a solid Pittsburgh squad, doing just enough to beat the Panthers, 5-3. Ally Carda was given the start for UCLA, and with a five-run second inning surge, Carda was able to hold on for her eighth win of the year, going 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits, and striking out just 2. The Bruins got off to an early lead thanks to Stephany LaRosa (1-2, 2 RBI) and Talee Snow (2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI), as well as Carda herself (2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI). Carda was solid until the top of the fourth, when she finally surrendered a run, before giving up two more in the fifth. With just a two run lead to protect, the Lady Bruins turned to Jessica Hall to close the door on any hope of a Pittsburgh comeback. With the game on the line, Hall went two innings, giving up zero hits and zero runs, while striking out two.

Finally, the ladies wrapped up their weekend tournament action with an afternoon tilt against Utah State, which the Bruins managed to pull out in a close pitcher's duel, 2-0. Ally Carda took the hill for a second-straight day and pitched a masterpiece for UCLA, throwing a one-hitter through 5 innings (while striking out 6 and surrendering just 1 walk), picking up her ninth win on the season. Jessica Hall came in with a two-run lead to protect, and Hall dominated, throwing 2 perfect innings in relief, facing six batters and retiring all six in a row (4 by K), notching her third save on the season. In a game without much offense, it was senior Samantha Camuso driving the only UCLA offense, driving in both runs, first with a RBI double in the bottom of the second, and adding on more to the lead with a fourth-inning solo blast that marked her sixth HR of the year.

And with that, that's your softball wrap-up for the past week. Great to see the ladies put their inconsistency to bed (we hope) and get the ship back on track, for what we all hope, will be a Pac-12 title-winning season followed by a deep post-season run. For the season, the ladies now stand at 20-6 overall. Fire away with your thoughts, comments, takes, etc. on the softball team in the comment thread.