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UCLA Bruin Bites: Softball Special

In a special, softball-only edition of Bruin Bites, we look at how UCLA fared in a crucial weekend series against the California Golden Bears.

@rememberthe1 (Christina Ferrante)

The eighth-ranked Bruins hosted the #18 California Golden Bears this past weekend at Easton Stadium. With conference leaders Oregon playing the Pac-12 cellar-dwellers in Palo Alto, it was important for the Bruins to keep pace with the Ducks in the race for the conference title.

On Friday, in the series opener, the Bruins wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard. The Bruins pushed two runs across in the bottom of the first when sophomore Delaney Spaulding ripped a leadoff single to left, and two batters later, senior Stephany LaRosa pinged a liner off the right field foul pole for a two-run homer.

UCLA was back at it in the bottom of the second, but this time used small ball to score their third run of the game. Sophomore Gabrielle Maurice began the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a sacrifice by senior Gracie Goulder, moved to third on a wild pitch, and came home when freshman Kylee Perez lifted a sacrifice fly to left.

The Bruins doubled their lead in the third. Freshman Maddy Jelenicki slapped a single up the middle, and Maurice earned another walk before Goulder hammered a three-run homer over the fence in right-center.

Meanwhile, senior Ally Carda was cruising. Through the first three innings, only one Cal batter managed a hit, and Carda was getting stronger with each inning.

The Bruins failed to add to their run total in the fourth, but they put Cal out of their misery in the fifth. A pinch-hit single by junior Mysha Sataraka and a Jelenicki single to left-center scored the Bruins' seventh run of the day. A double into the gap in right-center by Maurice put runners at second and third for junior Allexis Bennett, and she dropped a single into left-center to bring in the Bruins' eighth and final run.

The 8-0 mercy rule win over the Golden Bears extended the UCLA winning streak to five games. Ally Carda collected the win, her 19th of the season. She allowed just one hit and stuck out six in five innings.

Maddy Jelenicki led the Bruins with two hits and an RBI. Stephany LaRosa clubbed her ninth homer of the season, and Gracie Goulder smashed her third.

The Golden Bears regrouped on Saturday to offer the Bruins a stiff challenge. Cal opened the scoring in the second when Kobie Pettis hit a home run to right. Cal doubled its lead in the fourth with a pair of singles and threatened to add more in the fifth, but Ally Carda worked her way out of a bases loaded jam to keep the Bruins within two.

UCLA finally managed to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth. Junior Brittany Moeai led off the inning by punching a single to right, and pinch runner Tara Mueller scored when Maurice knocked a double to right. At that point, UCLA trailed 2-1 with just two frames left.

Carda held the Golden Bears in check in the sixth, and her teammates gave Carda her first lead of the game in the bottom half. Kyle Perez opened the inning with a single to right-center, and Carda followed with a base hit up the middle. A bunt by LaRosa advanced the runners before Moeai knocked a single up the middle to drive in both runners.

Unfortunately Carda failed to protect the 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh. Two walks and a single allowed Cal to even the score at 3-3.

The Bruins rallied again in the seventh. Allexis Bennett laced a one-out triple down the left field line, bringing clutch-hitter Delaney Spaulding to the plate. Spaulding didn't waste any time in crushing the ball over the center field fence to give the Bruins a 5-3 victory.

Ally Carda earned her second win of the series and 20th of the season even though she was nowhere near her best. Carda allowed 11 hits and issued four walks in seven innings of work. She did strike out nine, though.

Allexis Bennett had three hits for the Bruins, and Brittany Moeai and Kylee Perez added two apiece. Delaney Spaulding's home run was her ninth of the season, tying her with Stephany LaRosa for the team lead.

Both teams were back at Easton Stadium on Sunday, with the Bruins going for the series sweep and the Golden Bears fighting to salvage a game.

Freshman Johanna Grauer started in the circle for the Bruins, and she struggled from the start. A walk, two singles and a double in the first inning staked Cal to a 2-0 lead.

UCLA struck back in the bottom of the second. One-out singles by Maurice and Sataraka set the table for Goulder, and she responded with an RBI single to right. Bennett followed with a sacrifice fly to left to bring home the Bruins' second run of the inning.

With the score tied 2-2, the Bruins went back to work in their half of the fourth. With one on, Delaney Spaulding sent a shot to left that cleared the fence, driving in two more runs for UCLA.

After a rough start, Grauer had settled in to hold the Golden Bears in check for the next three innings, in part because of plays like these behind her:

Unfortunately, Grauer found herself in a jam again in the fifth. After surrendering a leadoff walk, Cal scored the runner with a single. That put an end to Grauer's outing, and Carda was summoned to put out the fire. Three batters later, the Bruins were out of the inning without any further damage, but Carda didn't look sharp, and it took a great play from Mysha Sataraka to get the final out.

Leading 4-3, the Bruins added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. Stephany LaRosa led off the inning with a home run to left center.

Maddy Jelenicki followed with a double to left. Maurice moved her to third with a sacrifice bunt, and Sataraka brought her home with a fly ball to left.

Carda faltered in the sixth. She walked the leadoff batter, allowed the second batter of the inning to reach base on a single through the left side of the infield, and then advanced both runners with a wild pitch. Carda walked the third batter of the inning on four pitches to load the bases, then walked the next batter to force in a run. That was it for Carda; freshman Selina Ta'amilo was called upon to kill the Cal rally.

However, the next Cal batter ripped a single down the right field line, and it took a fantastic throw by Kylee Perez to cut down the potential tying run at the plate.

With runners at second and third, Ta'amilo retired the next Cal batter on a foul out to third, and ended the Cal rally by inducing a grounder to second from Cal's seventh batter of the inning.

UCLA added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom half of the sixth. Walks to Spaulding and Carda put two aboard for LaRosa with two outs. LaRosa laced a single to right to bring home Spaulding, and when Jelenicki reached base on a throwing error, Carda scored the second run of the inning.

That was all that Ta'amilo would need. She slammed the door on Cal with a 1-2-3 seventh inning to give UCLA an 8-5 victory and the series sweep.

The win takes the Bruins to 38-8 overall, 12-3 in conference play, and extends the UCLA winning streak to seven games. The Bruins currently sit in second place and continue to trail #1 Oregon by a single game in the Pac-12 standings. Arizona is in third, three games behind UCLA.

Johanna Grauer earned her ninth win of the season and Selina Ta'amilo registered her third save with two scoreless innings of work.

Kylee Perez and Stephany LaRosa each had a pair of hits, and Spaulding and LaRosa each slammed a home run--the tenth of the season for both.

The Bruins travel to Corvallis this weekend for a Saturday, Sunday, Monday series against the eighth-place Beavers. Let's hope that the Bruins won't need to produce the rally caps against Oregon State.

By the way, congratulations to Ally Carda for being named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for the third time this season.

Finally, if you're looking for our usual weekly roundup of UCLA tennis, volleyball and water polo results, check back tomorrow as we begin our coverage of Pac-12 Championship week with a second installment of Bruin Bites.