2016 NCAA Eugene Super Regional, Day 2
#14 UCLA Softball (38-14-1)
Opponent: #4 Oregon (48-8)
When: 4:00 PM PDT, Sunday, May 29, 2016
Where: Sanders Stadium, Eugene, OR
Live Stats: GameTracker
Yesterday, UCLA opened the Super Regional in Eugene with an 8-1 loss to Oregon. Today, the Bruins will have to beat the Ducks twice to advance to the 2016 Women's College World Series.
It's win (twice) or go home time for the Bruins--another loss to the Ducks will close the door on UCLA's 2016 season.
In my preview of the opening game of the series, I wrote that the Bruins would have to play better this weekend than they did last weekend. Although they swept the competition in the Los Angeles Regional, there were plenty of warning signs that indicated that the Bruins weren't playing their best softball. UCLA got away with sloppy fielding, a lack of production at the top of the batting order, and inconsistent pitching against Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Bakersfield, but against an opponent as good as Oregon, those problems would probably prove fatal.
And so they did. In the opener of the Super Regional, UCLA committed three fielding errors, managed just four hits, and turned in an inconsistent pitching performance that was nowhere good enough to beat the Ducks. Oregon's ace, Cheridan Hawkins turned in another strong performance to earn her tenth straight win. Hawkins allowed just four hits and an unearned run in seven innings while striking out five.
Johanna Grauer started for the Bruins and lasted just two batters into the second inning. At that point, Coach Inouye-Perez replaced her with Paige McDuffee. McDuffee worked out of the jam in the second, but faced six batters in the third without getting an out before she was replaced by Selina Ta'amilo. Ta'amilo pitched reasonably well in the final four innings, allowing only two hits and one earned run, but the Ducks had a big lead at that point.
The Bruins can't dwell on the shortcomings that have plagued them for the past week. They have to find solutions to these problems overnight. UCLA can't continue to commit three errors every game. It can't afford to gift wrap a run or two for its opponent. The Bruins have to get production from their pair of .400 hitters at the top of the batting order. Allexis Bennett is 2 for 13 in the postseason, and Kylee Perez is 2 for 12. Because UCLA's pitching can't be counted on to shut down the other team, the Bruins have to hit their way to victory, and to do that, they need runners on base for the power hitters batting in the 3, 4, and 5 slots. Four of UCLA's five home runs last weekend against the Titans were solo shots, which is one of the reasons both of those games were close.
At this point, it's hard to predict how Coach Inouye-Perez will use her pitching staff today. She may start Johanna Grauer again, and hope that she can save Selina Ta'amilo for the second game--assuming that the Bruins can force a second game.
That's the dilemma that Coach Inouye-Perez faces: there's no point in saving anything for a second game if the Bruins can't win the first game. UCLA really has no choice but to treat the first game as the elimination game that it is. Lose and go home; win and make the best of the circumstances that forced a second game.
The Bruins have to down the Ducks twice today or their season is over. It won't be easy, and it won't be possible unless they raise their game. "Be at your best when your best is needed." UCLA's best is needed today.
TV NOTE FOR TONIGHT:— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) May 29, 2016
The first game today (4 p.m.), as well as the if game (7), will now be aired on ESPN2, not U. pic.twitter.com/PHvpyJ1fgQ