#10 UCLA Softball (18-5)
Louisville Slugger Invitational
Opponent 1: Boston University (8-12)
When: 9:00 AM PT, Saturday, March 11, 2017
Opponent 2: Long Beach State (7-11-1)
When: 11:30 AM PT, Saturday, March 11, 2017
Where: 49er Softball Complex, Long Beach, CA
The Bruins will be up early this morning for Day 2 of the Louisville Slugger Invitational in Long Beach. UCLA is set to play another doubleheader, starting with Boston University at 9:00 AM, followed by a game against the tournament hosts, Long Beach State. First pitch in the second game is tentatively scheduled for 11:30 AM.
UCLA's batting may not have produced the explosion of runs that I expected on Day 1 of the Louisville Slugger Invitational, but the pitching of Selina Ta'amilo and Johanna Grauer was about all the Bruins needed. Both Ta'amilo and Grauer tossed complete game shutouts, and the Bruins used one big inning in each contest to bring the mercy rule into effect.
In the first game of the twinbill, UCLA sent Selina Ta'amilo to the circle to face Eastern Michigan. While Ta'amilo was mowing down batter after batter through the first three innings, the Bruins were slowly adding runs. In the bottom of the first, UCLA put two on the board when Madeline Jelenicki socked her seventh home run of the season.
The Bruins added another run in the third when Delaney Spaulding hit a leadoff double, advanced to third when Kylee Perez slapped a single up the middle, and scored on a throwing error by the catcher as Perez was stealing second.
The Eagles finally got a hit in the fourth inning. A leadoff single was followed by a sacrifice bunt and a dribbler in front of the plate for the second out of the inning to advance the runner as far as third. Ta'amilo kept the Eagles off the scoreboard by retiring the next batter on a fly ball to left.
UCLA's bats finally heated up in the bottom of the fifth. Perez walked to open the inning. Paige Halstead knocked a single into right that was misplayed, allowing the runners to advance an extra base, and Perez scored when the rightfielder compounded her error with an errant throw.
Jelenicki followed with a single, and when Bubba Nickles was hit by a pitch, the bases were loaded. Ta'amilo doesn't bat often, but when she does, she makes it count. Her single to center drove in two runs and brought the Bruins within two of a mercy-rule win. Brianna Tautalafua followed with a single to left to bring home the Bruins' seventh run of the day, and two outs later, Spaulding wrapped up the win with a run-scoring single into center.
Ta'amilo notched her fifth win of the season, allowing just one hit and striking out five in five innings in the circle. Spaulding and Jelenicki each had a pair of hits to pace UCLA's offense.
BRUINS WIN!!!! Spaulding gets the mercy-rule, walk-off single to score Tautalafua. 8-0 UCLA in five. Bruins vs. Longwood at 2pm. pic.twitter.com/5LprJho6Ij— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) March 10, 2017
The Bruins' bats were still hot at the start of the second game of the twinbill against the Longwood Lancers. UCLA put 7 on the scoreboard in the top of the first to ensure that starter Johanna Grauer had plenty of run support.
The first inning rally started with four consecutive singles by Spaulding, Perez, Halstead, and Jelenicki, with Halstead and Jelenicki each collecting an RBI. Tautalafua then cleared the bases with a shot that cleared the centerfield wall, It was Tautalafua's sixth homer of 2017 and gave UCLA a 5-0 lead before the Lancers had managed to retire a batter.
The Bruins weren't finished. Thanks to wildness and a slew of illegal pitches by Longwood's new pitcher, UCLA added another run without a hit. Bubba Nickles drew a walk, and found herself on third base after two straight illegal pitches. Rachel Garcia was issued a second straight walk, and another illegal pitch brought Nickles home.
Longwood's generosity didn't stop there. Another illegal pitch and a pair of passed balls gave the Bruins their seventh run of the inning. Although UCLA threatened to score more runs, the Lancers' third pitcher of the inning got the third out, stranding two runners.
Those seven runs were more than enough for Grauer. She started grinding, allowing just two base runners through the first three innings, and not allowing a hit until the fourth.
By the time the fifth inning rolled around, the Bruins needed just one more run to put Longwood in jeopardy of a mercy-rule five inning affair. WIth one out in the top of the fifth, Gabrielle Maurice laced a 1-2 pitch into right. One out later, Spaulding smashed a single up the middle to put runners at first and second. Perez then clubbed a double to center to drive in run number eight for UCLA.
Rachel Garcia came in from the bullpen to finish the job with three strikeouts in the bottom of the fifth, sealing UCLA's second 8-0 five-inning mercy-rule victory of the afternoon. Grauer earned her sixth win of the season with four innings of one-hit ball. Kylee Perez led the Bruins' attack with four hits, while Spaulding and Jelenicki each contributed a pair.
Today's foes--Boston University and Long Beach State--aren't significantly better or worse than yesterday's opponents. The Terriers lost narrowly to Eastern Michigan and Long Beach State on Thursday, and the 49ers have a 6-4 victory over the Terriers and a 2-1 loss to the Eagles to show for tournament performance so far. Neither team should trouble UCLA if the Bruins can reproduce the level of their performances on Friday.
It will be interesting to see which pitchers Coach Inouye-Perez uses today. Will Rachel Garcia be the starting pitcher against Boston University in the early morning game? Will Paige McDuffee continue as a spot-starter, or will she see more of her work as a reliever?
So far in 2017, it's been difficult to predict Coach KIP's use of her staff. Garcia, who I expected to be the staff ace, has just four starts. That's the same number of starts as Paige McDuffee, who has been used primarily in relief for the past two years, and it's fewer starts than Grauer (10) and Ta'amilo (5). That's more than a bit puzzling considering the fact that Garcia is second only to Grauer in innings pitched, has a lower ERA (1.81) than Grauer (2.15), and has the best batting average against of any UCLA hurler.
I'm hoping that we get a clearer picture of how Coach Inouye-Perez intends to use her staff by the end of this weekend. With the start of conference play right around the corner, it would be the perfect time for pitching roles to be more clearly defined.