NCAA Los Angeles Regional, Day 2
#14 UCLA Softball (36-13-1)
Opponent: Cal State Fullerton (44-14)
When: 12:00 PM PDT, Saturday, May 21, 2016
Where: Easton Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: UCLA Live Stream
Live Stats: UCLA GameTracker
Johanna Grauer's performance in yesterday's 7-0 victory over Cal State Bakersfield can be summed up in just four words: three up, three down.
Inning after inning, Grauer retired the side. Inning after inning, Grauer's teammates failed to provide run support. The Bruins didn't reach base until there were two outs in the third. UCLA didn't register a hit until Delaney Spaulding laced a one-out single in the fourth.
It wasn't until the bottom of the fifth that the scoreless deadlock was broken. Madeline Jelenicki gave UCLA its first run when she slammed a homer to left. Then, after Gabrielle Maurice ripped a double to right-center, freshman Paige Halstead knocked a pitch over the wall in right to drive in two more.
Grauer finally had a lead, and she didn't let up. Three up, three down in the sixth. When the Bruins came to bat in the bottom of the inning, they added another four runs. Spaulding walked. Mysha Sataraka walked. Jelenicki walked. And then Maurice cleared the bases with a blast that cleared the right field wall.
The Bruins led 7-0 at that point; one more run and the mercy rule would end the contest, preserving Grauer's perfect game. Although Brianna Tautalafua drew a walk to extend the rally, the next three batters failed to push another run across the plate.
After a long wait in the dugout, Grauer returned to the circle needing one more three up, three down inning for a perfect game. She retired the first two batters she faced before she stumbled; Grauer walked the 21st batter she faced. Grauer didn't let the walk diminish her focus. She quickly retired the next batter to preserve her no-hitter, her shutout, and a very big win for the Bruins.
The no-hitter is the first of Grauer's career and the 14th in the Bruins' postseason history. It's also the latest addition to the incredible 108 no-hitters thrown by UCLA hurlers in the history of the program.
Although UCLA scored seven runs, it managed just six hits, three of which were home runs. Jelenicki's opening blast was her 13th of the season, Halstead's two-run shot was just her fourth of the year, and Maurice's homer was her sixth of 2016. Maurice led UCLA with four RBI and was the only Bruin to tally two hits.
UCLA's day 1 win over the Roadrunners advances the Bruins into today's winners bracket game against Cal State Fullerton. The Titans defeated Fresno State 6-4 in the early game yesterday to advance to the winners bracket.
The Bruins and the Titans have already squared off this season. Nearly two months ago, UCLA scored the tie-breaking run in the seventh to claim a 5-4 victory. Grauer started in the circle that day but lasted less than two innings. Selina Ta'amilo earned the win with five and a third scoreless innings in relief. Ta'amilo surrendered just two hits while striking out five. With the possibility of a second game today if the Bruins lose, Ta'amilo seems likely to be UCLA's starter against the Titans.
Predicting Fullerton's starter is more difficult since both of the Titans' starting pitchers were used against Fresno State. Desiree Ybarra--Fullerton's ace--started but was ineffective in her 2+ innings of work. Freshman Sydney Golden pitched the final four and two-thirds innings to pick up the win, holding Fresno State to just one run (unearned) on two hits. My hunch is that Ybarra will get the start, but considering how well Golden has pitched this season, she will probably be back in the circle at the first sign of trouble.
Although the Titan's lineup lacks the pop of the Bruins' batting order, there are two batters that are particularly dangerous. Senior Missy Taukeiaho leads Fullerton in batting average (.366) home runs (10), on base percentage (.498) and slugging percentage (.695). Junior Alexis Gonzalez leads the Titans in RBI (44), sports a .336 batting average, and has clubbed nine home runs.
If the Bruins can keep the Titans' two big bats silent, UCLA should be able to score enough runs to send Fullerton to this afternoon's losers bracket game. If not, the Bruins will have to come back at 6:00 PM PDT today to play the winner of Fresno State and Cal State Bakersfield in an elimination game. It would also mean that UCLA would have to defeat Fullerton twice tomorrow to advance to the super regional. Needless to say, that would seriously complicate UCLA's effort to get back to the Women's College World Series.