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UCLA Softball Looks to Make up Ground in the Pac-12 Title Race

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After downing the Ducks last weekend, the Bruins are heading to the northwest for a three-game series against the Beavers.

@UCLASoftball

#8 UCLA Softball (28-10, 4-5)

Opponent: Oregon State (19-17, 2-7)

When: 2:00 PM PT, Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where: Oregon State Softball Complex, Corvallis, OR

Audio: None

Video: Pac-12 Networks

Live Stats: Oregon State StatBroadcast

Official Game Preview | Game Notes

The Bruins are slowly climbing up the Pac-12 standings. Series wins against #12 Washington and #4 Oregon have lifted UCLA to the eighth spot in the latest NFCA Coaches Poll, and the Bruins now sit in fifth place after residing in the conference cellar two weeks ago.

That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that UCLA has lost ground on first-place Arizona during that stretch, and are still trailing third-place Utah and second-place Oregon by a significant margin (3.5 and 4 games, respectively). As good as the series wins against the Huskies and the Ducks were, UCLA will have to pick up a few series sweeps to get back into the Pac-12 title race.

The Easter weekend series against the Beavers is a good place to start. It won't be easy, though. Trips to Corvallis are always difficult, and not just because the Beavers have a decent softball program. In addition to the usual challenges associated with road games, the Bruins may have to cope with weather and field conditions with which they have little experience. Uncertain start times, rain delays, slick fields and shaggy turf are all problems that the Bruins may face, so they will have to be prepared for everything that goes along with softball in the northwest.

While the Bruins have increasingly taken a staff-approach to pitching, it's also true that Coach Inouye-Perez is relying more on freshman hurler Rachel Garcia with each passing week. Last weekend, Garcia picked up two big wins against the Ducks, and in recognition of her performance, she was named USA Softball Player of the Week, Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week, and Pac-12 Freshman of the Week.

But what we also learned against the Ducks is that using Garcia three days in a row isn't going to work. Last weekend, Selina Ta'amilo stepped up and pitched a terrific six shutout innings in game 2. Coach KIP will need that same kind of effort from her pitching staff again this weekend if the Bruins are going to sweep the Beavers and gain ground on the rest of the Pac-12 field.

With Arizona playing Utah and Oregon playing Washington this week, UCLA should be able to climb in the Pac-12 standings for a third straight week.

Go BRUINS!