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UCLA Needs to Bounce Back Tonight against Fullerton

The Bruins will get a bit of a breather tonight when they face Cal State Fullerton, the first unranked team that the Bruins have faced in over a week.

@UCLASoftball

#7 UCLA Softball (14-4)

Judi Garman Classic

Opponent: Cal State Fullerton (8-10)

When: 7:30 PM PT, Saturday, March 4, 2017

Where: Anderson Family Field, Fullerton, CA

Audio: Fullerton Radio

Video: FloSoftball (subscription required)

Live Stats:UCLA StatBroadcast

Official Game Preview | Game Notes

I suspect that Coach Inouye-Perez wasn't pleased after watching UCLA fall to Florida yesterday. Well, she may have been pleased for half an inning, since UCLA manufactured a run out of a single in the top of the first inning. But before the Bruins could come up to the plate again, UCLA gifted Florida four unearned runs.

Starter Paige McDuffee lasted three batters, retiring none of them. Selina Ta'amilo faced the next three batters, and she retired two of them before surrendering a two-run home run. Rachel Garcia came in to relieve Ta'amilo and killed the Gators' rally with a strikeout, but the damage had been done. Three pitchers, two hits, and one big error resulted in four runs.

After going down quietly in the top of the second, Florida came back for more. Four hits and another big error allowed the Gators to put up another four-spot to take an 8-1 lead.

As bad as it is to be down by seven runs after two innings, it's even worse when your opponent has one of the nation's best pitching staffs. To their credit, the Bruins managed to close the gap in the third when Zoe Shaw's leadoff single was followed by an opposite field shot by Delaney Spaulding, her fifth homer of 2017.

Unfortunately, that was as close as the Bruins would get. Florida added a run in the bottom of the fourth against Johanna Grauer, UCLA's fourth pitcher of the evening. The Bruins clawed back a run in the sixth thanks to a Kylee Perez triple and a wild pitch, but frankly, UCLA never threatened to catch the Gators.

Despite facing just three batters, McDuffee took the loss, her first of the season. Grauer was the best of the Bruins' hurlers, giving up just one run in four innings in the circle. Rachel Garcia, coming off a masterful performance against Michigan on Thursday night, was ineffective in relief.

Counting yesterday's loss to top-ranked Florida, the Bruins have six of their last seven games against top-15 teams. UCLA is 3-3 in those six games, but is 0-3 against the three highest ranked teams: Oklahoma, Florida, and Florida State. Let's hope that the Bruins learn from their losses and can take down elite teams as the season progresses.

In the meantime, UCLA will get a chance to start a new winning streak today when they play Cal State Fullerton on Day 3 of the Judi Garman Classic. The Titans have had plenty of ups and downs already this season, including their current three-game losing streak. The Titans aren't particularly strong at the plate or in the circle, but senior Kelsey Kessler is an above average pitcher, and senior catcher Lexi Gonzalez is a .395 hitter with some power. On a given day, Cal State Fullerton can be a tough opponent, even for a team as good as the Bruins.

UCLA can't afford a slow start today. If the Bruins can score a handful of runs in the first couple of innings, it should be plenty for any of UCLA's starters.

Go BRUINS!