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UCLA Softball Needs to Knock Down the Titans One More Time

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Can UCLA's pitching and power approach get them past the Titans and into the 2016 NCAA Super Regionals?

@UCLASoftball

NCAA Los Angeles Regional, Day 3

#14 UCLA Softball (37-13-1)

Opponent: Cal State Fullerton (45-15)

When: 12:00 PM PDT, Sunday, May 22, 2016

Where: Easton Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

AudioBruin Live Audio

Video: UCLA Live Stream

Live StatsUCLA GameTracker

UCLA Official PreviewUCLA Notes

2016 NCAA Los Angeles Regional CentralTournament Bracket

Before I review yesterday's 3-2 win over Cal State Fullerton, let me talk briefly about UCLA Athletics' performance in hosting the Los Angeles Regional. Among other things, UCLA promoted the availability of live streaming and live audio.

If you participated in the game threads for the first two days of the regional, you probably know that there have been problems with the audio and video feeds. For the most part, the audio has been available, although it oddly cut out at the end of Friday's game, and it cut out again yesterday. On the other hand, Friday's live video stream lacked audio, and although there was a pledge to fix the problem, it wasn't fixed. Saturday's live video stream lacked both audio and video. Again, UCLA promised to fix the problem but didn't. Instead we got this embarrassing tweet:

Efforting? Well, the "efforting" wasn't good enough to solve the problem. Apparently there were problems with the live stats provided too:

Sometimes technical problems arise, but when everything goes wrong at the same time, it's pretty hard not to find fault with the provider. Whether or not it's fair, these shortcomings reflect poorly on UCLA's hosting of the event. And in particular, these problems should have occurred two days in a row.

Fortunately, UCLA Softball took care of business on the field. For the second straight game, the Bruins found hits hard to come by, but managed to put runs on the board with another trio of home runs. Two of the three solo blasts came from Delaney Spaulding--her 15th and 16th of the year--and in each case, they restored a one-run lead for the Bruins. UCLA's other home run came off the bat of Kylee Perez in the first inning to give the Bruins an early lead.

Selina Ta'amilo started for UCLA and pitched a strong 4+ innings, allowing three hits and two runs. One of those runs was a gift, though, as the Bruins committed a crucial error that allowed Fullerton to knot the score at two in the bottom of the fifth.

Paige McDuffee pitched the final two innings for UCLA, neither of which was easy. UCLA needed a perfect throw from centerfielder Allexis Bennett to nail a runner at third and blunt a Titan rally in the sixth, and in the seventh, McDuffee issued a two-out walk to bring Fullerton's most dangerous batter to the plate as the winning run. After another long at-bat for Missy Taukeiaho, McDuffee induced a ground ball out to secure the 3-2 victory for the Bruins.

With their win in Saturday's winners bracket game, the Bruins hold a big advantage in today's regional championship contest. This is a true double-elimination tournament, so UCLA needs just one win to advance to the super regional while UCLA's opponent has to beat the Bruins twice to advance.

And who is UCLA's opponent on the third and final day of the Los Angeles Regional? Cal State Fullerton. The Titans defeated Fresno State 7-1 in yesterday's second losers bracket game to set up a rematch with the Bruins.

Although Fullerton once again used both of its starting pitchers in their victory over Fresno State, it seems likely that the Titans will start freshman Sydney Golden in the circle today. Desiree Ybarra pitched extremely well against Fresno State--no hits allowed and seven strikeouts in five scoreless innings--and she has so far proven more effective in relief in this tournament.

Johanna Grauer will undoubtedly start for the Bruins. Her control was absolutely superb in her first outing of the tournament--a seven inning no-hitter in which she limited CSU Bakersfield to a single baserunner. However, given Grauer's pitch-to-contact approach, UCLA will have to do a lot better in the field than it did yesterday.

While it's great to see UCLA winning with its pitching, it's not a team strength on which the Bruins can rely. So far, UCLA has managed just 11 hits in two games. The fact that six of those hits have been home runs which have driven in all of UCLA's 10 runs demonstrates how uncharacteristically quiet the Bruins' bats have been between blasts. UCLA is hitting under .250 in the regional, which is well below its .326 batting average this season.

The lack of production at the top of the lineup has been particularly noticeable. Allexis Bennett and Kylee Perez entered the postseason with batting averages over .400, but they have combined to go 1 for 14 in the first two games of the tournament. That has to change for the Bruins to make a deep run in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

This is your Los Angeles Regional Day 3 game thread. If the Bruins lose the first game today, a second game will be played at 3:00 PM PDT. If the Bruins win, they will move on to the super regional to face either Oregon or Baylor.

Go BRUINS!