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UCLA Softball: Can the Bruins "Outrun" the Wolverines?

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The Bruins open the Judi Garman Classic today against the high-scoring Wolverines. #14 Michigan is the first of three top-25 teams that UCLA will play in the tournament.

@UCLASoftball

#7 UCLA Softball (13-3)

Judi Garman Classic

Opponent: #14 Michigan (9-4-1)

When: 7:30 PM PT, Thursday, March 2, 2017

Where: Anderson Family Field, Fullerton, CA

Audio: None

Video: FloSoftball (subscription required)

Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast

Official Game Preview | Game Notes

After a couple of tough losses last weekend, the Bruins dropped one place in the latest NFCA Coaches poll. UCLA is now 7th, but has a good chance to move back up in the rankings with a trio of trio of top-25 opponents on the schedule this week.

This evening, the Bruins (13-3) open the Judi Garman Classic against one of those ranked-foes: the 14th-ranked Michigan Wolverines (9-4-1). Like UCLA, Michigan took part in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic II last weekend, and like the Bruins, the results for the Wolverines were mixed.

Overall, UCLA's performance in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic was good. The Bruins finished the week with three wins and two losses, with both losses against top-5 opponents, and two of the wins against top-15 competition. That said, UCLA looked totally outclassed in a 10-1 loss to Oklahoma, the reigning national champions.

On the other hand, in the final game of the tournament against top-ranked Florida State, the Bruins were a clutch hit away from taking the game to extra innings. The Seminoles did a better job of bunching their six hits, and that was the difference as UCLA suffered a 2-1 loss. Rachel Garcia went the distance, striking out 8 in seven innings but allowing six hits and a pair of runs.  The Bruins scored their lone run in the fifth when a pair of two-out singles by Brianna Tautalafua and Gabrielle Maurice set the table for Zoe Shaw. Shaw knocked an RBI single through the middle to bring home Tautalafua, but that was all the Bruins would get. After Tautalafua smacked a out-out single to right in the bottom of the seventh, UCLA couldn't find a way to score the tying run.

Garcia (6-3) took the hard luck loss. Although she's arguably been the Bruins' best pitcher this season, she has all three of the team's losses.

The Wolverines are a very good team, but also a very different team from the Seminoles. Florida State is blessed with a deep, strong pitching staff; Michigan is rich with a group of dangerous batters. Kelly Christner is particularly menacing: she leads the Wolverines with a .600 batting average, and has four homers and 20 RBI to go with it. Michigan has another pair of hitters--Abby Ramirez and Natalie Peters--hitting over .400, so UCLA's hurlers will have their hands full today.

Given the explosiveness of the Wolverine's lineup, the Bruins will have to get their bats going again. A couple of runs probably won't be enough today. If UCLA can put five runs up on the board, that should likely be enough to get start a new winning streak.

Go BRUINS!