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Super Regional Sunday - Can Carda Pitch UCLA Past Missouri?

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After beating the Tigers yesterday in the opening game of their Super Regional, the Bruins need one more win to advance to the 2015 Women's College World Series.

@UCLASoftball

Opponent: #10-seed Missouri (42-15)

When: Sunday, May 24, 12:01 PM PDT

Where: Easton Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

Audio: None

Watch: ESPNU

Live Stats: NCAA GameCenter Live Stats | GameTracker

UCLA Resources: UCLA Official PreviewUCLA Media Guide

2015 NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional ResourcesTournament Central

NCAA Resources: NCAA Bracket

After beating the Tigers 7-4 in the opener of the Super Regional, UCLA needs one win today to advance to the 2015 Women's College World Series. If the Bruins can't beat the Tigers in this afternoon's first game, a second game will be played 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. If the Bruins advance, it will be their first WCWS since 2010.

In last season's Super Regionals, the Bruins won the opening game against Kentucky 6-4 with Ally Carda pitching all seven innings. Carda was back in the circle the following day but she couldn't get out of the first inning, and Kentucky was able to force a third game with a 7-3 victory. Carda was ineffective in the elimination game as well, and Kentucky advanced to the WCWS. Let's hope that the Bruins can draw on the experience of last year's collapse in the Super Regionals to lead them past the Tigers this afternoon.

The Bruins Overcome an Early Deficit to Beat the Tigers

Facing one of the nation's more potent lineups, the Bruins knew that they would need to score early and often against the Tigers. Ally Carda started in the circle for UCLA, and although she gave up a leadoff single, she worked her way out of a jam in the first inning, stranding two runners.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Bruins scored the game's first run. Delaney Spaulding punched a leadoff single through the left side, and advanced to second when Allexis Bennett grounded out to second. Spaulding moved to third on a wild pitch before Carda knocked a single up the middle to plate the Bruins' first run.

With a one-run lead, Carda seemed to be settling in in her second inning of work. She retired the side in order in the second, though she threw a lot of pitches. However, the Tigers exploded for four runs in the third. It started with a leadoff home run by Missouri's Natalie Fleming. Carda plunked the next batter, and sent her to second with a wild pitch. After the third batter of the inning laced a single up the middle, Sami Fagan blasted a three-run shot to right-center.

Carda eventually got out of the inning, but the Bruins found themselves in a considerable hole as they came to bat in the bottom of the third, facing a 4-1 deficit.

Lowary retired the first two batters in the bottom of the third before Allexis Bennett reached first on an infield single. Ally Carda followed by drawing a base on balls to put runners on first and second with two down. Stephany LaRosa then smashed a clutch single through the left side to bring home Bennett with UCLA's second run. Freshman Maddy Jelenicki was the next Bruin to come up with a big hit when she hammered a double to the gap in left-center. Carda and LaRosa scored to pull the Bruins even at 4-4.

After a difficult third, Carda was masterful in the fourth, setting the Tigers down in order. And the tie was soon broken when Mysha Sataraka clubbed a solo shot to left-center to lead off the bottom of the fourth. But the Bruins weren't finished. With one out, Kylee Perez reached first on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Spaulding drew a walk, and Bennett moved the runners into scoring position with a slow grounder. Ally Carda then walked to load the bases, and the Tigers went to the bullpen for their ace, Tori Finucane. Finucane walked LaRosa on four pitches to force home UCLA's sixth run of the game before ending the Bruins' rally.

With a 6-4 lead to protect, Carda kept the Tigers in check, working her way out of a two-out jam in the fifth to strand a pair of runners. In the bottom half, the Bruins took advantage of Missouri's generosity. Maurice reached first on an error by the Tigers' second baseman. Sataraka bunted Maurice to second, but a throwing error by the catcher meant that both runners were safe. Gracie Goulder bunted to advance the runners to second and third before Perez walked to load the bases. Spaulding knocked a grounder to short, but the Tigers threw home to get a force at the plate. With two outs, Allexis Bennett worked Finucane for a base on balls to push UCLA's seventh run across the plate.

Carda cruised through the sixth with a four-pitch, 1-2-3 inning. After UCLA stranded a pair in the bottom half of the sixth, Carda retired the first two Tigers in the seventh before conceding a pair of singles. But once again, Carda killed the rally to secure a 7-4 victory for the Bruins.

Ally Carda pitched a complete game to earn her 30th win of the season. She allowed four runs on eight hits and a pair of walks while striking out three.

Mysha Sataraka led the Bruins with a pair of hits, including her sixth homer of the season. Maddy Jelenicki and Stephany LaRosa each collected a pair of RBI with clutch hits. In addition to tallying eight hits against the Tigers, the Bruins benefitted from eight walks and a pair of Missouri errors.

What to Expect

I would be stunned if Ally Carda isn't back in the circle for UCLA this afternoon. Whether the Bruins play one game or two today, I think that Carda will pitch every inning unless the Bruins build a huge lead or fall behind by a considerable margin.

The Tigers will probably counter with Tori Finucane instead of Lowary in the second game of the series, but neither Missouri pitcher was particularly effective yesterday. Since Missouri didn't hesitate to use all three of its pitchers in critical situations in the Columbia Regional, the Tigers may do the same today.

As I wrote in yesterday's preview, if Ally Carda can keep the ball in the park against a Missouri lineup filled with power hitters, then the Bruins should be able to put up enough runs to beat the Tigers. Missouri isn't the type of team built to chip away at a lead one run at a time.

Today's starting lineup for UCLA will probably be the same as we saw yesterday:

  1. Spaulding SS
  2. Bennett CF
  3. Carda P
  4. LaRosa C
  5. Jelenicki 1B
  6. Maurice LF
  7. Sataraka 3B
  8. Goulder 2B
  9. Perez RF

Go BRUINS!