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UCLA Softball 2021 Season Preview Part 2

The 2021 conference play is set up to maintain conference standing integrity. Each series will consist of four games with only three counting towards conference standing allowing for COVID-19 related game cancellations.

UCLA begins conference play against USA Today /NFCA #16 Arizona State (2019 35-20, 2020 22-7) on 3/19 -3/21. The Bruins swept ASU in 2019 with 3 run rule victories in 16 innings outscoring the Sun Devils 35-5 in the process. UCLA’s three pitchers each pitched a complete game holding the Sun Devils to 12 total hits. The offense was equally potent hitting a combined .444 including 6 doubles and 8 homeruns.

ASU’s top pitcher Cielo Meza (10-2, 1.98 ERA) returns with support from UA transfer Marissa Schuld (UA 2019/2020 2-0, 17.2 innings, 0.40 ERA, .318 BA). The Sun Devils also returns an intact lineup that batted .333 in 2020 including Softball America #4 Kindra Hackbarth (.443).

UCLA visits UC Berkeley 3/26-3/28 (2019 28-27, 2020 13-11). The Bruins swept Cal in 3 close games (3-2 (8), 1-0, 6-0) in 2019. The superb pitching performance held Berkeley (22 innings, 12 hits, 2 runs) in check for the series. The offense struggled against strong pitching performances in the first two games from Cal’s Zoe Conley (7.1 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs) and Kamalani Dung (6 innings, 5 hits, 1 run).

Longtime coach Diane Ninemire retired last year, and pitchers Conley and Dung are gone. The new coaching staff features a couple of Mike White disciples Chelsea Spencer and Kailee Cuico. The roster is dominated by underclassmen (16 Freshman, 4 Sophomores) and has no seniors. The two experienced pitchers return (Alexandra Perez (6-5, 5.10 ERA) and Chloe Romero 7-6, 5.74 ERA)) and the top 5 hitters return led by Makena Smith (.481) and Mikayla Coelho (.432).

UCLA takes a break from conference play beginning with a rematch with Loyola Marymount (4/2) and then visits University of San Diego (4/3) for a doubleheader.

University of San Diego (2019 20-29 2020 15-12). The Bruins beat the Toreros (4-0) last year. Lexi Sosa, Julie Rodriguez and Holly Azevedo pitched a combined shutout.

First year head coach MJ Knighten added Shay Knighten to her staff. USD is an extremely young squad (14 freshmen, 6 Sophomores) without any seniors. The Toreros will rely on returning pitchers Madison Earnshaw (4-1, 2.75 ERA) and Courtney Rose (2-1, 3.62) supported by 4 freshmen. The 7 returning starters are led by Sophomore Sophia Bjerk (.310).

UCLA visits USA Today /NFCA #10 Oregon to play 4 more games on 4/9-4/11.

The Bruins return home to play Oregon St. (2019 26-19, 2020 17-9) on 4/16-4/18. UCLA swept OSU (8-1, 10-2, 7-0) in 2019. UCLA pitchers combined to hold OSU to 3 runs in 19 innings. The offense batted .370 scoring 25 runs on 33 hits. They are led by Mariah Mason (.377, 10-6 1.18 ERA)

UCLA will meet USA Today/NFCA #2 Washington (2019 52-9, 2020 23-2) on 4/23-4/25. The Bruins swept the Huskies (3-0, 4-2 (8), 15-6 (5)) during the 2019 regular season then knocked UW (3-0 (10) out of the college world series semifinals on a 10th inning walk off home run by Rachel Garcia.

The Huskies batted a combined .365 and the pitching staff had a combined ERA 2.68. UW returns all their key players led by SA #6 Sis Bates (.529) and pitcher SA #5 Gabbie Plain (10-2 2.76 ERA).

The Bruins hit the road again to play 4 more games at Utah (4/30 – 5/2).

UCLA's plays its final 4 home games against Stanford (2019 33-20 2020 22-4) on 5/6 – 5/9. The Bruins struggled to win 2/3 games (1-2, 7-4, 4-0) in 2019. While the pitching staff held Stanford to 6 runs in 20 innings, the offense scored only 5 runs against Stanford ace Carolyn Lee (1st and 3rd game)

Stanford has a solid pitching tandem in Sophomores Tatum Boyd (7-0 0.85 ERA) and Alana Vawter (9-1 1.48 ERA). They added Softball #25 2021 recruit Regan Krause (P/1B). The Cardinal return 5 players batting over .300 led by Taylor Gindlesperger (.402) and Teaghan Cowles (.390).

UCLA will wind up the regular season visiting USA Today /NFCA #3 University of Arizona (2019 48-14, 2020 22-3) on 5/13 – 5/15. The Bruins dropped 2/3 (3-5, 5-4, 1-3) in the 2019 regular season to Arizona but beat them 6-2 in college world series knocking them into the elimination bracket.

The Wildcats roster was extremely dynamic in the off season losing 5 players to transfer including Marissa Schuld (2020 3 innings, 0.00 ERA) and starter Ivy Davis (.305). 5 players elected to use their COVID-19 year including SA #3 Jessie Harper (.395) and SA #13 Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza (.373). SA #11 Dejah Mulipola (2019 .311) returns from the national team adding to a lineup that batted .323 last year. The Wildcats also added 8 freshmen including 5 SA top 25 2021 recruits. The pitching staff retained their two top pitchers, Mariah Lopez (11-2, 1.38 ERA) and Alyssa Denham (9-1, 1.92 ERA)




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