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Softball Roundup - The Bruins Stumble in Tempe

UCLA traveled to Tempe to face the Sun Devils in the last series of the regular season with an outside chance of catching first-place Oregon for the Pac-12 title. Unfortunately the Bruins' pitching wasn't up to par.

@UCLASoftball

The Bruins were in Tempe last week for the final series of the regular season. With an outside chance to overtake Oregon for the Pac-12 title, UCLA needed to extend its streak of four series sweeps. Unfortunately, the Bruins fell well short of that goal.

Game 1

As usual, Ally Carda was in the circle for the Bruins in the series opener. Although she found herself in a jam in the first inning, Carda worked her way out of trouble.

The Bruins have been playing long ball recently, and that trend continued in Tempe. In the second inning, with a runner aboard, Mysha Sataraka turned on a pitch and drove the ball over the left field fence. It was Sataraka's fourth home run of the year.

UCLA scored a third run on base hits by Gracie Goulder and Kylee Perez and a sacrifice fly by Delaney Spaulding.

The UCLA lead didn't last beyond the third. Carda conceded five in the bottom half of the inning, three of which scored on a three-run home run by Haley Steele, and another scored when Carda unleashed a wild pitch with a runner at third. And ASU would have scored more than five if not for a terrific inning-ending catch by Allexis Bennett in center.

Trailing 5-3, the Bruins cut the lead in half in the fourth. Singles by Sataraka, Goulder, and Perez loaded the bases, and Carda drew a walk to force home UCLA's fourth run of the day.

After Ally Carda held the Sun Devils in check in the bottom half of the fourth, Maddy Jelenicki brought UCLA even at five when she blasted a deep drive to center for her fifth home run of the season.

Although it rarely happens, Carda faltered in the bottom of the fifth. Eventually she was relieved by freshman Johanna Grauer, but before Grauer recorded the third out of the inning, three more runners had crossed the plate, with two of them scoring on passed balls.

Down 8-5, the Bruins rallied. Kylee Perez led off the sixth with a solo shot to right-center. And trailing by two in the seventh, the Bruins got another solo homer, this time by Gabrielle Maurice, to pull within a run. But that was the last run that UCLA would score, giving ASU an 8-7 victory.

Carda's line for the day was very un-Carda-like: four innings pitched, allowing 10 hits, eight runs (six earned), with three walks, a wild pitch, and just two strikeouts.  The loss dropped Carda's record to 25-5. Grauer pitched two scoreless innings of relief.

Kylee Perez led the Bruins at the plate with four hits, including her fourth home run of the season. Gracie Goulder, Mysha Sataraka, Gabrielle Maurice, Maddy Jelenicki and Allexis Bennett each had a pair of hits. Maurice's home run was her sixth of the year.

Game 2

Ally Carda was back in the circle as the Bruins' starter on Friday. Although she wasn't at her best, she pitched much better than she did in game one.

The Bruins trend of scoring early and playing long ball continued when Delaney Spaulding led off the game with a homer to right field.

A dropped pop up allowed Arizona State to tie the score in the bottom of the first. But the Bruins came right back to take the lead in the second when Gabrielle Maurice homered to left to put UCLA up 2-1.

In the third, the Bruins added another run when Spaulding clubbed her second solo shot of the day.

The Sun Devils narrowed the UCLA lead to one when Amber Freeman hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth. Going to the fifth, Carda was protecting a 3-2 lead.

The UCLA offense exploded for five runs in the fifth. The big hit of the inning came from Stephany LaRosa. She blasted a three-run shot to left for her 14th homer of the season.

Maddy Jelenicki followed LaRosa with a deep drive to center to give UCLA an 8-2 lead.

With the Bruins holding a six-run lead, Ally Carda's day was finished. Freshman Selina Ta'amilo was brought in to relieve, and had a rough start when she surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.

UCLA added another run in the sixth to extend their lead to 9-4, and then added two more in the seventh to give Ta'amilo an 11-4 lead to protect.

Unfortunately Ta'amilo couldn't get an out in the bottom of the seventh, and after conceding a run and putting two runners aboard, Carda was back in the circle to close out the game. Carda choked off the Sun Devil rally with a strikeout and two foul outs to give the Bruins an 11-5 win.

Carda earned her 26th win of the season with five innings of four-hit ball. She allowed two runs (one earned) while striking out four. Selina Ta'amilo worked two innings, allowing four hits and three runs.

The hitting star for UCLA was Delaney Spaulding. She had three hits, two home runs (her 16th and 17th of the season), and four RBI. Gabrielle Maurice and Gracie Goulder each had a pair of hits, and Stephany LaRosa had three RBI to go along with her 14th bomb of the year.

Game 3

UCLA wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard on Saturday. Stephany LaRosa clubbed a three-run homer to right-center to give the Bruins the early lead.

Johanna Grauer started in the circle for the Bruins in the series finale. Grauer had pitched well in the series opener, working two scoreless innings in relief of Ally Carda. However, on Saturday, Grauer found herself in trouble in her first inning of work. A walk, a wild pitch, and a single produced a first inning run for ASU.

The Bruins responded in the top of the second with six runs. The Bruins loaded the bases on a bunt single sandwiched between two walks, and Allexis Bennett brought two runners across the plate with a double high off the wall in left-center.

The Sun Devils then intentionally walked LaRosa to load the bases, and Maddy Jelenicki made them pay. She jacked a grand slam to left-center to give UCLA a 9-1 lead.

Meanwhile, Grauer seemed to be settling in. She had a 3 up, 3 down inning in the second, although she had Kylee Perez's great throwing arm to thank for one of the outs.

The Bruins threatened again in the third, but ultimately left the sacks jammed when Jelenicki popped up to end the third. That turned out to be the turning point of the game.

Grauer couldn't manage to get an out in the third. ASU scored six times before Ally Carda retired the side. Grauer's line for the day isn't pretty: 2 innings pitched, six hits, six runs, a walk, a wild pitch, and no strikeouts.

Holding a 9-6 lead, the Bruins kept hitting but couldn't score a run. In the fourth, with runners on second and third, the ASU centerfielder robbed Delaney Spaulding of a home run. In the bottom half, Carda kept the Sun Devils off the board with a pair of strikeouts to extinguish an ASU threat.

But the Sun Devils kept up the pressure. In the bottom of the fifth, Carda gave up a two-run shot and the Sun Devils were within one.

The Bruins got an insurance run in the sixth when Gabrielle Maurice blasted a solo shot to center to put the Bruins up 10-8.

It stayed 10-8 until the bottom of the final frame. With two on and two out, ASU's Jennifer Soria hit her second home run of the game to complete the Sun Devil's comeback. Up by eight runs early, the Bruins pitching staff couldn't protect the lead, and ASU walked off with an 11-10 victory and the series win.

The good news is that the UCLA power surge continued with three Bruins going yard: LaRosa with her 15th of the season, Jelenicki with her seventh, and Maurice with her eighth. LaRosa and Bennett each collected three hits, and Gracie Goulder and Kylee Perez each had a pair.

The bad news is that UCLA's pitching appears increasingly fragile. Ally Carda had her second poor outing of the series and collected her second loss of the weekend. In four and two-thirds innings of relief, Carda allowed five runs on five hits and four walks plus two wild pitches. Carla's record now stands at 26-6.

The Bruins finish the regular season with a 45-10 mark. Their 19-5 conference record gives #6 UCLA a second place finish, two games behind top-ranked Oregon and six games ahead of #17 Arizona.

As JoeBruin15 mentioned yesterday, the Bruins earned the seventh seed for the 2015 NCAA tournament and will host regional games this weekend. UCLA's opening game is Friday against Cal State Northridge at Easton Stadium with the first pitch scheduled for 5:30 PM PDT.

If you want to follow the action but can't attend the game, ESPN 3 will be televising Friday's games, and Bruins Nation will have a preview and game thread where you can share your thoughts.

Go BRUINS!