NCAA Los Angeles Regional, Day 1
#14 UCLA Softball (35-13-1)
Opponent: CSU Bakersfield (16-32)
When: 6:00 PM PDT, Friday, May 20, 2016
Where: Easton Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: UCLA Live Stream
Live Stats: UCLA GameTracker
The good news is that UCLA is back in the NCAA Tournament and is hosting the Regional based on being selected as the 12th-seed. The bad news is that the Bruins head into this year's tournament without an elite hurler on the pitching staff. Needless to say, it's extremely hard to progress through a knockout tournament when a team has to rely on putting a lot of runs on the board game after game.
Fortunately, the Bruins have a really strong batting order, starting with leadoff hitter Allexis Bennett and her .437 batting average. For the second straight season, Bennett won the regular season batting title. Second baseman Kylee Perez bats in the second spot and turned in an outstanding season at the plate with a .410 batting average.
The middle of UCLA's batting order hits for both power and average. Delaney Spaulding didn't have the big season that many predicted, but her .342 batting average and team-leading 14 homers make her one of the conference's most dangerous hitters. Third baseman Mysha Sataraka turned in a brilliant senior campaign with a .371 batting average and 12 home runs, and led UCLA in both slugging percentage and on base percentage. Madeline Jelenicki did a terrific job of protecting those two in the order by slamming a dozen home runs while hitting .331. Gabrielle Maurice struggled at the plate for much of the season, but she seemed to get untracked in the last month and finished with a .285 batting average.
At the bottom of the order is a trio of freshmen: Paige Halstead, Brianna Tautalafua, and Zoe Shaw. Halstead enjoyed a strong freshman season at the plate and showed her versatility in the field. She finished the regular season with a .301 average, and although she only hit 3 homers, she has the leverage to generate a lot of power with her swing. Tautalafua didn't start until about halfway through the season, but she put up good numbers against Pac-12 opponents: a .308 batting average and 6 home runs. Zoe Shaw had a rough freshman campaign, hitting just .224 and seeing her production tail off at the end of the season.
Although UCLA's pitching staff doesn't have an ace, the two main starters--Johanna Grauer and Selina Ta'amilo--have managed to maintain decent ERAs even though they allow a lot of baserunners. The fact that opponents are hitting close to .300 against both Ta'amilo (.284) and Grauer (.292) shows the extent of UCLA's pitching problems. Paige McDuffee has pitched only 31 innings this season, but it's 18 innings more than she pitched last year. She has a terrific 2.29 ERA as a Bruin, but unfortunately, a horrible series of injuries has severely restricted her ability to play. My guess is that she'll be used primarily in relief in the postseason.
The Roadrunners are not a particularly good team. Assuming that the Bruins get their bats going early, UCLA should be able to outscore CSUB. If the Bruins have to rely on their pitching to win, though, they could be in trouble.