#7 UCLA Softball (15-4)
Judi Garman Classic
Opponent 1: South Carolina (15-4)
When: 11:30 AM PT, Sunday, March 5, 2017
Opponent 1: #22 Baylor (17-3)
When: 2:00 PM PT, Sunday, March 5, 2017
Where: Anderson Family Field, Fullerton, CA
UCLA returns to the diamond in Fullerton this morning for a midday doubleheader against South Carolina (15-4) and #22 Baylor (17-3). It will be just the latest in a flurry of postseason-worthy opponents that the Bruins have faced in the past couple of weeks.
Yesterday's game against the tournament hosts, Cal State Fullerton, was a chance for the Bruins to regroup after a poor performance against #1 Florida on Friday. But what should have been a bit of a breather for the Bruins became a nail-biter.
Thanks to a brilliant performance by Bruin hurler Johanna Grauer, UCLA slipped past the Titans 2-0, but the Bruins needed a lot of help from Fullerton to get that pair of runs. The Titans aided the Bruins with four errors, three of which came in the sixth inning and enabled the Bruins to finally break the scoreless deadlock.
With one out in the sixth, Bubba Nickles laced a single to right, but wound up on third as a result of an outfield error. Brianna Tautalafua came to the plate next, and she reached first on an error by the Titan pitcher. Imani Johnson entered the game as a pinch runner for Tautalafua and promptly stole second. Then, when Fullerton committed yet another error on a grounder to third, both Nickles and Johnson crossed the plate.
Those two runs proved to be plenty for Grauer. She shut down the Titans the rest of the way to earn her fifth win of 2017 with a complete game shutout. Grauer allowed just four hits while striking out seven and walking none.
BRUINS WIN!!!! Grauer masterful and UCLA takes advantage of some errors to score two in the sixth. #7 UCLA 2, Cal State Fullerton 0. pic.twitter.com/QAYmbL3DQa— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) March 5, 2017
As good as it was to see UCLA get back on a winning track and to see the team's strong pitching rebound from the poor outing of the previous day, the Bruins' hitting was, in a word, unimpressive. UCLA managed just four singles against three Titan pitchers. That won't get the job done against most teams, and certainly not against teams as good as the Gamecocks and the Bears.
Baylor has looked really good this weekend. The Bears are now riding an 11-game winning streak after dumping #7 Washington yesterday. Baylor is 3-0 in the Judi Garman Classic thanks to fantastic pitching; the Bears have allowed just 3 runs in their three tournament games.
South Carolina has had a bumpy tournament so far, with a mercy-rule win over Indiana sandwiched by close losses against Northwestern and Arizona State. South Carolina doesn't have dominant pitching, but the Gamecocks have a pretty decent lineup with a couple of power hitters (Mackenzie Boesel, Kaylea Snaer). On the other hand, South Carolina has played a relatively soft schedule to this point, so the Gamecocks record (15-4) and statistics can be a bit misleading out of context.
Today's doubleheader will be another great test for the Bruins. These are exactly the types of games that UCLA will have to navigate if its going to return to the Women's College World Series. Win or lose, these games will help prepare the Bruins for a successful postseason run.