#6 UCLA Softball (6-1)
Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
Opponent 1: Cal Poly (4-1)
When: 12:30 PM PT, Friday, February 17, 2017
Opponent 2: Central Florida (2-3)
When: 3:00 PM PT Friday, February 17, 2017
Where: Big League Dreams Sports Park, Cathedral City, CA
Video: FloSoftball (subscription required)
Weather permitting, #6 UCLA will play a doubleheader today in the first day of action from the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. The Bruins open with a midday tilt against Cal Poly (4-1), and then are scheduled to face Central Florida in the nightcap. Of course, the weather will have a lot to say about how much softball is actually played today, as significant precipitation is expected in the southland this afternoon.
UCLA (6-1) saw its six-game winning streak snapped in the second game of their doubleheader against #22 Kentucky on Wednesday. After enjoying a home run fest in the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament, the Bruins suffered a power outage on Wednesday, managing just one extra base hit in 17 innings against the Wildcats. Fortunately UCLA's Rachel Garcia was up to the task of keeping Kentucky's bats quiet while the Bruins struggled to find runs.
Selina Ta'amilo started game 1, but last just four batters, conceding three hits and a pair of runs before being replaced by Garcia. The freshman slammed the door on the Wildcat rally and held Kentucky scoreless for another 6 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 10 in the process.
The Bruins rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the first thanks to a two-run single by Garcia. UCLA added three more in the second when a bases-loaded Kylee Perez single drove home two more runs, and another scored on a throwing error. The Bruins chalked up a sixth run in the fourth on another RBI single by Perez.
Six runs was more than enough for Garcia. Her 6 and two-thirds innnings of relief earned Garcia her third win of the season and extended her scoreless inning streak to 16 and 2/3.
Perez went 3 for 3 with 3 RBI in the opener, and Gabrielle Maurice and Brianna Tautalafua each added a pair of hits.
BRUINS WIN!!! Perez drives in three and Garcia throws 6.2 scoreless in the circle with 10 K's and drives in two. Game two in 30. pic.twitter.com/g9XsgNdNAb— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) February 16, 2017
Although UCLA scored six in the opener, the Bruin batters struggled in the final innings of the opener. That pattern continued in the nightcap, unfortunately. Although UCLA had opportunities to score early, a combination of Coach KIP's preference for small ball and UCLA's inability to get timely hits kept the Bruins scoreless until the fourth when they pushed across an unearned run.
Meanwhile, Johanna Grauer was grinding. Kentucky strung together three singles and a walk for a run in the third, but that was all that Kentucky could put together against Grauer in her four innings of work. With the score tied, Coach Inouye-Perez called on Garcia again, and she was up to the challenge. For another six innings, Garcia kept Kentucky from scoring. Although UCLA continually put runners on base, five sacrifice bunts accomplished little and gave the Wildcats five outs that they would have had to earn otherwise. In any case, timely hits were lacking, so despite out-hitting the Wildcats, UCLA couldn't break the deadlock.
After four additional frames, UK's Jenny Schaper broke the tie with one swing of the bat. In spite of a leadoff single by Paige Halstead in the bottom of the 11th, the Bruins came up empty at the plate again. It was UCLA's first loss of 2017, and Rachel Garcia's first loss of her collegiate career.
The Bruins need to get their hitting back on track today. That won't necessarily be easy, as both Cal Poly and UCF have decent pitching. However, with power hitters up and down the lineup, UCLA should be able to generate more than one extra base hit in today's doubleheader.
UCLA has a strong and deep pitching staff. If UCLA's batters can put three or four runs on the scoreboard, they should be able to count on the Bruins' hurlers to do the rest.