2016 NCAA Women's College World Series, Day 3
#14 UCLA Softball (40-15-1)
Opponent: #7 Florida State (53-9)
When: 9:00 AM PDT, Saturday, June 4, 2016
Where: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City, OK
Audio: FSU Audio
Live Stats: None
If UCLA's 10-3 loss to Auburn on Thursday felt strangely familiar, it's because just five days earlier, the Bruins lost in similar fashion to the Oregon Ducks to open the Super Regional in Eugene. In that game, UCLA gave the Ducks an early lead courtesy of a six-run third inning, and the Bruins never seriously threatened to get back into the game. In that loss, Coach Inouye-Perez turned to her bullpen in the second inning, and the Bruins' cause wasn't helped by three errors.
On Thursday, the Bruins nearly repeated the script against the Tigers in the first round of the Women's College World Series. Once again UCLA was undone by surrendering a bunch of runs early. Against Auburn, UCLA conceded five runs in the first and another two runs in the third to hand Auburn a 7-0 lead that the Bruins would never seriously challenge. Once again, UCLA committed a trio of errors, which this time led to six unearned runs. Once again, UCLA's starter was gone early, with Coach Inouye-Perez bringing in a reliever after Selina Ta'amilo had thrown just 13 pitches and retired a single batter. Ta'amilo only allowed one hit, but she managed to pack the bases by walking a batter and hitting two others with pitches. Reliever Paige McDuffee proved not to be the answer as she promptly hit two more batters with pitches, and a key UCLA error gave Auburn two more runs.
Mysha Sataraka briefly gave Bruins fans some hope of a comeback when she hammered a three-run homer in the fourth to cut the Tigers' lead to 7-3, but the Bruins' third pitcher of the day--Johanna Grauer--gave up another run in the bottom half of the inning, and UCLA never threatened after that.
The Bruins are now one game away from elimination. To the extent that there's something positive to say about the Bruins' disappointing performance to open the WCWS is that they have been in this position before and responded with a pair of strong outings from the pitching staff. Last weekend, needing two wins to avoid elimination in the Super Regional, UCLA's pitchers held Oregon to just two runs in 16 innings and the Bruins produced just enough offense to advance to the WCWS.
UCLA will need a similar turnaround against Florida State this morning. It's an elimination game for Florida State too, and like the Bruins, the Seminoles have only themselves to blame for their predicament. In their opening round, 5-4 loss to Georgia, the Seminoles committed seven errors and allowed four unearned runs, including the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh which involved no hits and a pair of errors.
Obviously both teams have to find a way to bounce back from tough losses that saw them play well-below their best. The Seminoles will probably give redshirt junior Jessica Burroughs the start. She enjoyed great success against UCLA earlier this year, holding the Bruins to just one hit in six and two-thirds shutout innings. Burroughs sports a 27-5 record this season with an outstanding 1.95 ERA.
Florida State also boasts two sluggers that make working through the heart of the Seminoles' batting order a real challenge. Florida State's aptly-named first baseman Alex Powers leads the Seminoles in batting average (.387) and is second in home runs (15) and slugging percentage. Sophomore Jessica Warren leads the team in home runs with 19 and trails only Powers in batting average at .382. The pair of sluggers have hit over half of the Seminoles homers this season, and have registered over a third of the team's RBI.
It's hard to guess which hurler Coach Inouye-Perez will start in the circle this morning. None of them were particularly effective on Thursday. Johanna Grauer didn't pitch badly when she faced the Seminoles earlier this year, allowing three runs (two earned) in seven innings of work, but the fact that Florida State's batters have seen her before wouldn't generally work in her favor.
The Bruins have no margin for error today. They can't afford to give away runs due to errors in the field or loss of composure in the circle. They have to start hitting again like they did in the final month of the regular season when they averaged nearly eight runs per game. They need to be at their best today. Win or go home--it's that simple.