#6 UCLA Softball (12-1)
Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic II
Opponent: #4 Oklahoma (7-3)
When: 5:30 PM PT, Friday, February 24, 2017
Where: Big League Dreams Sports Park, Cathedral City, CA
Audio: OU Radio
Video: FloSoftball (subscription required)
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
For the first time this season, UCLA's pitching wasn't able dominate its opponent. For the first time this season, the Bruins needed a fistful of runs to overcome the other team.
UCLA opened the second round of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic with a sweep of yesterday's doubleheader, extending its winning streak to six games in the process. The Bruins came from behind to defeat #11 Georgia 10-5 in the early game, and then pounded North Carolina State 8-3 in the late game.
The Bruins took an early lead in game 1 against the Bulldogs. Paige Halstead hit a bases-loaded single to drive in two runs in the bottom of the first inning. The Bulldogs halved UCLA's lead in the top of the second, but the Bruins went back to work in the bottom half of the inning, scoring an unearned run when Delaney Spaulding hit a sacrifice fly to left.
UCLA took a 3-1 lead to the third when starter Johanna Grauer ran into trouble. After retiring the leadoff hitter, she walked the next batter, threw a wild pitch, and then walked the second batter. Coach Inouye-Perez had seen enough, and Rachel Garcia was called upon to work out of the jam. Garcia didn't start well. She threw the second wild pitch of the inning and then plunked the next batter to load the bases. But then she struck out the next two Bulldogs to end the threat.
UCLA added a fourth run in the bottom of the third on a walk by Garcia, a hit by Halstead, an error that put Madeline Jelenicki aboard, and a sacrifice fly by Brianna Tautalafua.
However, Georgia began its fightback in the fourth. The Bulldogs scored one in the fourth, two more in the fifth to tie the score at 4, and one more in the sixth to take a 5-4 lead.
The reversal didn't rattle the Bruins, though. UCLA rallied for five runs in the bottom half of the sixth, with the big blow being a three-run jack by Paige Halstead.
Garcia settled down in the seventh, retiring the side in order to secure a 10-5 victory for the Bruins, their 11th win of the season. Garcia won her fifth game of the season even though she was far from her best. She allowed five hits and three earned runs in four and two-thirds innings in the circle, walking one and striking out seven.
UCLA's ten runs came on just seven hits, though the Bruins took advantage of five walks and three costly errors. UCLA improved to 11-1 while Georgia dropped to 12-2.
The nightcap against the Wolfpack was a much different game. The Bruins put up three runs in the second courtesy of a three-run blast by Tautalafua. Starter Selina Ta'amilo surrendered a run in the top of the third, but UCLA added another trio of runs in the bottom half on consecutive RBI singles by Bubba Nickles (1 RBI) and Jacqui Prober (2 RBI).
When North Carolina added a second run to its total in the fifth to cut the Bruins' lead to 6-2, UCLA immediately struck back in the bottom half with two more runs. Gabrielle Maurice had the big hit this time around--her double to left-center drove in both runs.
Paige McDuffee worked the final two innings for UCLA, allowing one run in the ninth to give the Bruins an 8-3 win. Ta'amilo allowed seven hits and two runs in five innings of work to earn her third win of 2017. Kylee Perez tallied three hits against the Wolfpack to raise her batting average to a team-leading .565.
It won't get any easier for the Bruins today when they square off against the fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. Although the Sooners have three losses, each of those defeats were the result of a one-run loss to a ranked team. Oklahoma was beaten 3-2 by (then) top-ranked Auburn, 1-0 by 13th-ranked Washington, and 2-1 by 15th-ranked Tennessee. There's also the fact that Oklahoma won the 2016 national championship, so the Sooners have a ton of experience in big games against elite opponents. Needless to say, this will be another step up in level of competition for the Bruins.
As today's game day tweet says, "Just one game for the Bruins today, but it'll be a good one." Let's hope UCLA's bats stay hot and that the Bruins' pitching is up to the task.