#11 UCLA Softball (7-3)
Opponent: #1 Florida (11-0)
When: 5:30 PM PST, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: Big League Dreams Sports Park, Cathedral City, CA
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
Last weekend the Bruins managed a 3-2 record in the first round of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. UCLA looked good against lesser competition and mediocre against better opponents. In their three wins, the Bruins held their opponents to a total of two run. In their two losses, the Bruins allowed 18 runs.
Sophomore Selina Ta'amilo has done an excellent job in her role as the Bruins' new ace. The graduation of Ally Carda created a huge void, and through 7 starts, Ta'amilo has posted good numbers. She has six wins and one defeat in those seven starts, and she sports a 2.12 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 39+ innings. Those aren't Carda-quality numbers, but they're good.
Unfortunately, sophomore hurler Johanna Grauer hasn't enjoyed such a strong start. Her ERA is 5.80 and she is 1-2 in three starts. Opposing batters are hitting .321 against her, and a fair portion of those hits are of the extra base variety.
Reportedly Paige McDuffee and Rachel Garcia will return from injury to pitch for the Bruins this season. Until they do, the Bruins will need to rely on both Ta'amilo and Grauer.
For the most part, UCLA's returning batters have started thumping the ball. The one exception is Delaney Spaulding. Although she's hitting a solid .290, that's well below her average last season, and she's stuck out far too many times already this year, especially with runners in scoring position.
As expected, the freshmen in the starting lineup are struggling a bit at the plate. Paige Halstead is the exception. She's hitting .281 and has already collected her first home run as a Bruin. Taylor Pack and Zoe Shaw are both hitting below .150, and neither one of them has hit for power or drawn a lot of walks. Coach Inouye-Perez will undoubtedly be patient with them, but I'm a little surprised that she's given no at bats to any of her bench players so far. That strikes me as a bit short-sighted.
The Bruins have been far too sloppy with their infield defense through their first 10 games. 10 errors in 10 games may not seem like a lot, but all but one of those errors have been committed by veteran players. In particular, with Grauer's propensity for allowing baserunners and her pitch-to-contact approach, the Bruins have to make plays behind her. Giving the other team extra baserunners and additional outs is never good, but it's deadly when you have a pitcher that's seemingly always trying to work her way out of a jam.
Today the Bruins meet #1 Florida in the opening game of the second round of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Expect Selina Ta'amilo to start in the circle and expect UCLA's starting 9 to be unchanged.
Tonight's result will undoubtedly come down to pitching. If Ta'amilo isn't overwhelmed by the experience and can keep Florida's batters from putting together a big inning, the Bruins have the bats to keep up.