#8 UCLA Softball (28-10, 4-5)
Opponent: Oregon State (19-17, 2-7)
When: 3:00 PM PT, Friday, April 14, 2017
Where: Oregon State Softball Complex, Corvallis, OR
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: Oregon State StatBroadcast
It's hard to imagine a worse beginning to UCLA's road trip to Corvallis. Game 1 started late after a rain delay and it ended early with a five inning, mercy rule 8-0 loss to the Beavers.
Rachel Garcia started in the circle for the Bruins and lasted less than three innings. She didn't pitch horribly, but she paid a heavy price for a pair of walks she issued with one out in the third. A ground ball single through the right side drove in Oregon State's first run, and when the next batter ripped a three-run homer to left, the Beavers were up four runs even though they'd only managed two hits.
Selina Ta'amilo replaced Garcia at that point and eventually got the final two outs of the inning without any further damage. But Ta'amilo followed Garcia's blueprint in allowing the Beavers to chalk up another four runs in the next inning. A lead off single, a pair of walks, and a double brought home three more runs for OSU, and before Ta'amilo could get the third out of the inning, a single drove home the crucial eighth run.
With the threat of the mercy rule in play, the Bruins rolled over in the fifth. Oregon State's Taylor Cotton needed only eight pitches to retire the side in the fifth, inducing two ground ball outs and notching a three-pitch strikeout. Cotton faced just two batters over the minimum. The Bruins feeble hitting resulted in just two singles.
There was good reason to believe that UCLA's batting woes had ended two weeks ago in Seattle, but after a tough weekend at the plate against Oregon and yesterday's poor hitting performance in Corvallis, there's growing concern about UCLA's ability to manufacture runs. The Bruins have scored a total of seven runs in their last 27 innings on 18 hits.
Another worrisome trend is UCLA's lack of patience at the plate: the Bruins have drawn only two walks during the last four games. The lack of baserunners is clearly a problem, but I've seen nothing to indicate a change in approach at the plate.
Of course it would be rash to put too much emphasis on one bad game, or even to look at a short term trend and conclude that UCLA's season is in jeopardy. However, this weekend represents a fantastic opportunity for the Bruins to gain ground in the conference standings on #2 Arizona, #4 Oregon, #12 Washington, and #14 Utah, but UCLA's progress in that regard was set back by yesterday's loss.
Mathematically, UCLA can still pass the Wildcats, the Ducks, the Utes, and the Huskies and win the Pac-12 title. Unfortunately, yesterday's loss probably puts the Bruins out of the title race and leaves third place as a more realistic target.
Either way, the Bruins need a strong performance today at the plate and in the circle. UCLA can still earn a third straight Pac-12 series win with victories today and tomorrow, but more important than that, the Bruins have to get back to playing the kind of softball that earned them a spot in the NFCA Coaches Poll top-10.