#6 UCLA Softball (8-1)
Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
Opponent 1: UC Davis (3-2)
When: 11:30 AM PT, Sunday, February 19, 2017
Opponent 2: Liberty (5-2)
When: 2:00 PM PT, Sunday, February 19, 2017
Where: Big League Dreams Sports Park, Cathedral City, CA
Video: FloSoftball (subscription required)
The Bruins kicked off Day 1 of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic with two big wins, beating not only Cal Poly and Central Florida, but beating the rainstorm as well. UCLA opened the twinbill with a 3-1 victory over Cal Poly before closing out the day's action with a 1-0 squeaker over UCF courtesy of a pitching gem by Johanna Grauer.
Prior to Friday's doubleheader, I closed my preview with the following statement:
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.
When I wrote that, I meant three or four runs per game, not per doubleheader. As good as UCLA's pitching staff has been so far this season, in future games they are likely to need more run support than they got on Friday.
That said, Rachel Garcia and Johanna Grauer were terrific on Day 1 of the tournament, combining to toss 12 and a third innings of scoreless ball. With that kind of dominance in the circle, UCLA was able to get by on a day when its hitters produced very little.
Senior Paige McDuffee started the opener for the Bruins and pitched an inning and two-thirds and allowed one run before reaching her pitch count limit. On came Rachel Garcia in relief to kill the Cal Poly rally. Garcia allowed a single hit the rest of the way, striking out four in the process.
Meanwhile, UCLA did just enough at the plate to pull even and pass the Mustangs. The Bruins evened the score in the bottom of the second when Paige Halstead ripped a one-out triple to left and Madeline Jelenicki brought her home with a sacrifice fly to center. An inning later, the Bruins took the lead on Brianna Tautalafua's team-leading third home run of the season, and extended the lead when Delaney Spaulding doubled and Bubba Nickles smacked an RBI single to right.
That was all Garcia (4-1) would need. She went the distance for her fourth win of the season, lowering her ERA to 0.24 in the process.
BRUINS WIN!!!!!!! Garcia allows only one hit in 5 1/3 of relief and Tautalafua hits a homer. 3-1 UCLA over Cal Poly. Back at 3pm vs. UCF. pic.twitter.com/3LiUYlzbKJ— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) February 17, 2017
Johanna Grauer started the nightcap against UCF. It was more of the same from UCLA's slumping lineup, and it wasn't until the bottom of the fourth that the Bruins managed to string together a couple of hits. Nickles led off with a single to right and Garcia reached base on an error by the Knights' shortstop. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move up a base, and after an infield out, Madeline Jelenicki knocked in the game's only run with a single to left.
Grauer found herself in a jam in the sixth when she issued a one-out base on balls. A passed ball later, the Knights had a runner at third. The next batter hit a grounder to second, and in a tight play at the plate, Kylee Perez nailed the runner heading for home.
In the bottom half, the Bruins should have added to their run total, but a base running error cancelled out a pair of runs. It was one of those weird plays that you don't often see. With Perez on first, Nickles clubbed what appeared to be a two-run homer, but Perez was judged to have left first base early, and as a result, she was called out and the home run was erased.
In the end, it didn't matter. In the seventh, Grauer induced two ground outs before striking out the final batter. It was Grauer's third complete game win of the season and her second shutout.
BRUINS WIN!!!!!!!! Grauer is stellar in the circle, fanning six in a complete-game, two-hit shutout. UCLA 1, UCF 0. Bruins now 8-1. pic.twitter.com/eDN13LxVWh— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) February 18, 2017
As comforting as it is to have a deep, strong pitching staff, the Bruins would dearly love to see a return of the batting prowess that was so impressive last weekend. They'll get a chance to do just that today. After last night's game against the Aggies was delayed twice and eventually postponed due to field conditions, the Bruins are now set to play a midday doubleheader, starting with UC Davis and finishing with Liberty. This is a great opportunity for the Bruins to break out of their slump before the competition heats up next weekend in the second round of the tournament.