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UCLA Softball Prepares to Mess with Texas

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The Bruins close out a busy weekend with a late afternoon home game against the Texas Longhorns.

@UCLASoftball

#10 UCLA Softball (20-5)

Opponent: Texas (12-9)

When: 4:00 PM PT, Sunday, March 12, 2017

Where: Easton Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

Audio: Bruin Live Audio

Video: Pac-12 Networks

Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast

Official Game Preview

If you've been anxious to watch UCLA Softball this season, and like me, you don't live in the Southland, there's good news: today's game against Texas is being televised by the Pac-12 Network.

Of course, with the start of the conference season this week, the Bruins will be a regular feature on the Pac-12 Network over the next couple of months, starting with all three games next weekend against Utah.

Today's game against Texas is the Bruins' final tune-up before embarking on what is shaping up to be a brutal stretch of conference games and a tough, wide-open Pac-12 title race. With four Pac-12 teams (Oregon, Arizona, Washington, and UCLA) currently ranked in the top-10, and another three conference teams (Utah, Arizona State, and Cal) ranked in the top-25, the Pac-12 season will be trial by fire for Coach Inouye-Perez' squad.

Yesterday's doubleheader also represented an opportunity for the Bruins to prepare for the onset of the conference season. Sadly, the Bruins' performances against a pair of mediocre teams didn't match the high expectations that being a top-10 team creates. Still, the Bruins picked up two more wins to extend their winning streak to four games, and UCLA's pitching looks solid again after a couple of wobbles last weekend.

In game 1 against Boston University yesterday, Coach KIP gave Paige McDuffee her fifth start of the season. Honestly, I don't know what Coach Inouye-Perez has planned for McDuffee this season, but it appears that Paige is still on a pitch count. McDuffee pitched three innings (43 pitches) before being replaced by Selina Ta'amilo.

McDuffee surrendered a first-inning run on a pair of walks and a single, but settled down after that to retire the side in the second and third innings.

Meanwhile, UCLA's bats didn't heat up until the third. With one out, consecutive singles by Kylee Perez, Madeline Jelenicki, and Paige Halstead produced two runs, and a home run by Brianna Tautalafua--her seventh of 2017--added two more runs.

When Selina Ta'amilo entered the circle in the bottom of the fourth, the Bruins were still up 4-1. But UCLA struck for two more runs in the fifth. Tautalafua drew a two-out walk before Bubba Nickles clubbed a 1-2 pitch over the left field fence for her third homer of the season.

Ta'amilo held the Terriers in check for the final three innings. She allowed just three hits in four scoreless innings to notch her sixth win of 2017.

If you found the Bruins' batting performance in the opener less than impressive, you will have been even more disappointed by UCLA's production in the nightcap against Long Beach State. The 49ers are a mediocre team, yet the Bruins made them look NCAA Tournament-worthy.

Rachel Garcia was in the circle to start game 2, but she lasted just 40 pitches, allowing two hits while striking out a pair. I don't know if Garcia is on a pitch count or was pulled as a precaution, but there's no other good explanation that I can think of for Coach Inouye-Perez' decision to send Johanna Grauer to the circle to start the bottom of the third.

At that point in the contest, the Bruins held a 1-0 edge over the 49ers thanks to Tautalafua's team-leading eighth home run of the season, a solo shot to center in the top of the second.

Tautalafua's blast was the Bruins' only significant hit of the game. UCLA managed just three other hits in seven innings--all singles.

Long Beach State's hitting wasn't much better; the 49ers had singles in each of the first five innings, but only threatened to score in the second inning. The 49ers put a runner in scoring position with a HBP and a stolen base, but when Long Beach State's Rachel Loera hit a single to center, Gabrielle Maurice gunned down the runner at the plate.

Fortunately, one run was enough for Grauer. In five innings of work in relief of Garcia, Grauer held the 49ers to just three hits while striking out five. Grauer earned her seventh win of the season and lowered her ERA to 1.98 in the process,

The Bruins managed just 14 hits in 14 innings yesterday. That may be enough to beat teams like Boston University and Long Beach State, but it won't create enough run support for UCLA's hurlers against Pac-12 foes.

It probably won't be enough to beat Texas today, either. Texas has struggled against Pac-12 opponents so far this year, but several of the games have been close. The Bruins will probably have to get more run production to beat the Longhorns, and they'll certainly need better hitting when the Utes come to town next week.

Go BRUINS!