#13 UCLA Softball (32-12, 7-7)
Opponent: #27 Cal (26-15, 3-10)
When: 5:00 PM PT, Sunday, April 23, 2017
Where: Easton Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Video: Pac-12 Network
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
On Friday night, the Bruins won the opener of their three game series with Cal the hard way. Last night, UCLA didn't need any final at-bat heroics to win game 2. Instead the Bruins relied on strong pitching, solid fielding and timely hitting to earn a 3-1 victory.
Besides clinching another series win, the victory lifted UCLA to a .500 record in the conference and moved the Bruins closer to fourth-place Washington and third-place Oregon. A sweep of the series with a win in this evening's game will pull the Bruins even with the Huskies, and with a series against last-place Stanford up next, UCLA has a great opportunity to push past Washington and gain ground on Arizona, Utah, and Oregon.
Selina Ta'amilo started in the circle for Coach Inouye-Perez yesterday. Although she wasn't sharp, allowing base runners in every one of her first four innings of work, she kept the Bears off the scoreboard.
Fortunately, UCLA scored an early run to give her the luxury of a lead. In the bottom of the second, Bubba Nickles led off with an infield single to short and advanced to second on the throwing error. After Paige Halstead sacrificed the runner from scoring position at second to scoring position at third, Gabrielle Maurice grounded out to second before Zoe Shaw delivered a two-out run-scoring single up the middle.
The Bruins doubled their lead in the fourth. Maurice ripped a one-out double to right center and Shaw again delivered an RBI single to give UCLA a 2-0 lead.
Coach Inouye-Perez made a pitching change to start the fifth, bringing in Paige McDuffee for Ta'amilo. After retiring the first batter, McDuffee gave up a single and a walk. McDuffee seemed to be working her way out of the jam when she induced the next batter to ground out to second, but she then plunked the following hitter to load the bases. At that point, Coach KIP called for her ace, and Rachel Garcia got the third out of the inning to end the threat.
In the bottom half of the inning, UCLA added an insurance run thanks to the generosity of the Golden Bears. Brianna Tautalafua drew a leadoff walk. Cal's shortstop then badly misplayed Madeline Jelenicki's grounder, and by the time the dust had settled, Jelenicki was on second and UCLA had scored its third run of the game.
Inexplicably, Coach Inouye-Perez then recalled Ta'amilo to the circle. She quickly surrendered a single, a walk, and an RBI single without retiring a batter. Garcia was once again summoned to the circle to put out a fire, and that's exactly what she did, with two strikeouts sandwiched around a grounder to short.
Garcia was back in the circle for the seventh, and she retired the side in order to secure a 3-1 win.
Ta'amilo earned the win, improving her record to 9-0. However, she allowed five hits and four walks in just four innings of work--far from her best performance of the season. Garcia was credited with her second save of 2017.
Highlights from game 2 are courtesy of the Pac-12 Network:
For the third time in the Pac-12 season, the Bruins have a shot at a series sweep. In both previous attempts--against Washington and Oregon--UCLA couldn't get the job done, and that has contributed to UCLA's two steps forward, one step back approach to climbing the Pac-12 standings.
As I mentioned at the start of the series, with a huge series against Arizona looming and UCLA still six and a half games behind the Wildcats, the Bruins have to make up ground on the conference leaders at every opportunity. Sweeping Cal won't be easy, but if the Bruins still have designs on finishing in third place or higher, they'll have to find a way to earn their first game 3 win of the Pac-12 season.