Opponent: Texas (38-15)
When: Saturday, May 16, 12:00 PM PDT
Where: Easton Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Live Stats: NCAA GameCenter Live Stats
UCLA Resources: UCLA Official Preview | UCLA Media Guide
Los Angeles Regional Resources: Tournament Central
NCAA Resources: NCAA Bracket
You know what day it is. @uclatheden pic.twitter.com/SMAwy5JyWt— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) May 16, 2015
Ally Carda led the Bruins to an NCAA tournament opening game victory yesterday. This afternoon the Bruins will battle the Texas Longhorns in the Los Angeles Regional winners bracket game. Today's winner will play again tomorrow; today's loser will face the survivor of the loser's bracket game between San Diego State and Cal State Northridge in an elimination game at 5 PM PDT today.
The Bruins Batter the Matadors
The Bruins relied on long ball and Ally Carda's arm to power past Cal State Northridge on Friday. After surrendering a solo shot to the Matador's Katie Hooper in the first, Carda used her bat to bring the Bruins back in the third.
Allexis Bennett ignited the rally with a leadoff double. Carda followed by blasting a home run to right-center to put the Bruins ahead, 2-1. The next batter, Stephany LaRosa, clubbed a solo homer to right, her 16th of the season. Three batters later, Mysha Sataraka ripped a two-run shot to center, the Bruins' third home run of the inning.
The UCLA power surge gave Carda a 5-1 lead heading into the fourth. Although Carda wasn't in peak form, she was consistently stranding CSUN baserunners.
UCLA put four more runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Delaney Spaulding and Bennett led off with consecutive singles, and then pulled off a double steal. With two runners in scoring position, Carda brought them both across the plate with a single to left-center.
After LaRosa was retired, Maddy Jelenicki reached on an error. With runners on first and second, Gabrielle Maurice doubled to right to plate another run. Sataraka drove in the last run of the inning when she lifted a sacrifice fly to right.
That made the score 9-1. When Carda retired the side in the fifth, the mercy rule was invoked, giving the Bruins a five-inning 9-1 victory.
In Ally Carda's five innings of work, she allowed one run on four hits and two walks. Carda struck out three, and threw 76 pitches--an important consideration for Coach Inouye-Perez as she makes plans for her pitching staff for the rest of the weekend.
Allexis Bennett paced the Bruins with three hits and two stolen bases. Ally Carda had two hits, including her eighth homer of the season, and four RBI. Mysha Sataraka also had a pair of hits, including her fifth home run of the year, and batted in three.
Scouting the Longhorns
The Longhorns advanced to today's winners bracket game by defeating San Diego State 8-3 in yesterday's early game. Senior Gabby Smith pitched a complete game, and catcher Erin Shireman led the Longhorns with three hits, three RBI and a home run.
Texas (38-15, 12-6) finished in a second-place tie in the Big 12 conference. The Longhorns earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and are currently ranked 29th in RPI.
Like the Bruins, the Longhorns have plenty of punch. Junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens leads the Longhorns in batting average (.350), home runs (15), and RBI (47). Sophomore infielder Devon Tunning is second in batting average (.340), and leads Texas in on-base percentage. As a team, Texas is hitting .304 for the season, and the Longhorns average just about 6 runs a game. That makes Texas a good--not great--offensive team.
The strength of the Longhorns rests in their pair of starting pitchers. Freshman Erica Wright is the ace of the staff. She compiled an 18-7 record this season with a 2.32 ERA and a .208 BAA. Wright averages slightly over 1 strikeout per inning. Senior Gabby Smith is the second Longhorns' starter. She finished the regular season with a 10-3 mark and a 2.54 ERA. Like Wright, Smith averages a little over one K per inning.
What to Expect
Against the Aztecs, the Longhorns got a complete game win from their #2 pitcher, senior Gabby Smith. That means that the Texas ace, freshman Erica Wright, is rested. I expect Wright to start this afternoon and Smith to be the Longhorn's first choice in relief. With Carda likely to start again for the Bruins, Texas holds a slight advantage in the circle.
It's a different story at the plate. The Bruins have been pounding the ball in the latter part of the season, and they continued that trend yesterday with nine runs in five innings. The Longhorns have shown the potential to score plenty of runs too, but they are clearly a notch below the Bruins offensively.
While the Bruins are definitely the superior team, the circumstances of this tournament play to the strengths of teams that have an experienced and reliable second-day starter. The only remedy that UCLA has is to score early and often. If the Bruins can build a sufficient lead, it will give Coach Inouye-Perez the option of giving Ally Carda some rest.