2016 NCAA Eugene Super Regional, Day 1
#14 UCLA Softball (38-13-1)
Opponent: #4 Oregon (47-8)
When: 6:30 PM PDT, Saturday, May 28, 2016
Where: Sanders Stadium, Eugene, OR
Live Stats: GameTracker
Last year, UCLA opened the 2015 Women's College World Series with an impressive 7-1 victory over Oregon. This year, when the Bruins visited Eugene in April, the Bruins snapped the Ducks' 18 game winning streak and took two out of three in their weekend series.
UCLA has played well against Oregon recently, but past success is just that--in the past.
The Bruins enter the Super Regional after a sweep in the Los Angeles Regional. But contrary to what UCLA Athletics would have you believe, the Bruins weren't particularly impressive. Yes, UCLA hit a lot of home runs. Unfortunately, they needed those home runs because the top of the order was remarkably unproductive, and aside from homers, the Bruins found base hits hard to come by. Yes, UCLA won all three games, but two of those games were one-run victories against an opponent (Cal State Fullerton) that isn't a great team. Yes, UCLA's pitching was better than expected, but neither of the Bruins' opponents are particularly good-hitting teams. Furthermore, UCLA was unsteady in the field, uncharacteristically making the kinds of errors that generally cost teams dearly in the postseason.
Numbers may not lie, but selective use of numbers can paint a misleading picture. Last weekend, UCLA played just well enough to win. This weekend the Bruins will have to play substantially better to beat the fourth-ranked Ducks.
Like the Bruins, the Ducks enter the Super Regional after sweeping the opposition in their first weekend of postseason play. Unlike the Bruins, the Ducks looked convincing in doing so. The Ducks averaged over 7 runs a game in the Eugene Regional, and allowed just one run all weekend. Oregon looks primed for a deep postseason run.
In particular, Oregon's ace, Cheridan Hawkins, is peaking at the right time. In her last nine starts, Hawkins is a perfect 9-0 with an ERA of just 0.39, and she's fanned 66 batters while walking only seven. Although the Bruins have had success against Hawkins in the past, they'll have to get more production from Allexis Bennett and Kylee Perez at the top of the lineup than they did last weekend.
Johanna Grauer will likely start in the circle for UCLA in the opening game of the series. In the first game of the Los Angeles Regional, Grauer spun a no-hitter and came within one batter of a perfect game. However, in her next outing, she didn't fare as well, giving up three runs on three hits while failing to get out of the second inning.
Unfortunately, UCLA's pitchers have lacked consistency all season, which is why Coach Inouye-Perez needs to adjust her tactics to play for big innings. Small ball doesn't make much sense when you have a team of sluggers and a pair of starting pitchers that can't be counted on to hold a lead.
If the Bruins put everything together this weekend, they can make a second straight appearance in the Women's College World Series. Against a team as good and as hot as the Ducks, though, the margin of error is very small.