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Women's College World Series, Day 1 - UCLA vs. Oregon

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UCLA battles #2 Oregon tonight in their opening game of the Women's College World Series.

@UCLASoftball

Opponent: #2-seed Oregon (51-6)

When: Thursday, May 28, 6:30 PM PDT

Where: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City, OK

AudioOregon IMG Sports Alternate

Watch: ESPN2

Live Stats: NCAA GameCenter Live StatsGameTracker

UCLA Resources: UCLA Official PreviewUCLA Media Guide

NCAA Resources: NCAA Bracket

The Bruins play Oregon tonight in the Women's College World Series after an undefeated run through the Regionals and Super Regionals. The last time UCLA advanced to the WCWS was in 2010, so none of this group of Bruins has experience in the final round of the NCAA tournament. There's no doubt that the Bruins are one of the most talented teams in the country, but UCLA will have to overcome their inexperience on the big stage and their lack of reliable pitching depth if the Bruins are going to win the 2015 WCWS.

UCLA Shows Missouri

UCLA advanced to the WCWS with a two-game sweep of Missouri in the Super Regionals.

Game 1

The Bruins fought back from a 4-1 deficit to beat the Tigers in the series opener, 7-4. Ally Carda went the distance to earn her 30th win of the season. Mysha Sataraka crushed her sixth homer of the season for the go-ahead run.

Game 2

In game 2, UCLA built a 9-1 lead over the Tigers before holding on for a 10-6 win. Ally Carda got her 31st win of the season, although she needed relief help from Selina Ta'amilo. Three Bruins hit home runs: Delaney Spaulding hit her 20th, Stephany LaRosa clubbed her 19th, and Mysha Sataraka hammered her seventh.

The Ducks Take Two

The Bruins and Ducks played a critical three game series in the first week of April that effectively decided the Pac-12 title race.

The Bruins won the series opener 8-1 behind a brilliant pitching performance by Ally Carda. Carda allowed just two hits and one run in seven innings while striking out 14. Meanwhile, the Bruins battered the Oregon ace, Cheridan Hawkins. UCLA scored six runs against Hawkins in the first three innings and cruised to a comfortable win that was powered by home runs from Ally Carda and Stephany LaRosa.

Game 2 started much the same, with Carda and Hawkins facing off again. And once again, the Bruins roughed up Hawkins, scoring four runs in the second inning before Hawkins' day was over. Carda surrendered a first inning run but kept the Ducks' bats silent into the fifth. At that point, she found herself in a jam, and Johanna Grauer came in to put out the fire. The Bruins led 4-1 going to the seventh, but the Ducks rallied. Oregon put five on the board against Grauer, and when UCLA was unable to find an answer in the bottom half of the seventh, the Ducks escaped with a tremendously important 6-4 win.

Going into game 3, the Bruins had scored 10 runs in four innings against Cheridan Hawkins. But the Ducks' ace was back to her best in the series finale. Hawkins went the distance in a 10-0 mercy rule win, giving up a pair of hits and striking out six. Unfortunately, Carda was far from her best, allowing nine runs (eight earned) in a little over three innings of work. Even though Ally only allowed six hits, she issued five walks, and the Ducks took advantage of the free passes.

Although the Ducks won the series, the result turned on the Bruins' inability to shut down the Ducks when Carda wasn't in the circle. It's unlikely that Carda will be able to pitch every inning in the WCWS, so it's important that Ta'amilo and Grauer contribute effective innings when they're called upon to relieve.

On the other hand, UCLA batters have to be confident about facing Hawkins. Although she's one of the best pitchers in the nation, the Bruins know that they can hit her--they battered her and chased her from the game in two previous meetings.

A Statistical Comparison of the Bruins and the Ducks

As the table below shows, the Bruins and Ducks are both very good offensive teams, with little separating them. UCLA is marginally better in all of the basic hitting metrics, but holds a slightly larger advantage in the most important offensive statistical measure: runs per game. UCLA averages nearly 0.4 runs more per game than Oregon. That difference might be a result of better clutch hitting by the Bruins; alternatively, it might reflect the Bruins' superior ability to extend rallies due to the fact that there are no easy outs in the UCLA lineup. Whatever the reason, the difference is significant.

However, as the table shows, Oregon holds a significant advantage in ERA, with the Ducks allowing almost a third of an earned run a game less than the Bruins. But the scoreboard doesn't distinguish between earned and unearned runs, and the comparison between runs allowed shows a much smaller advantage for Oregon.

The fielding percentages for the Bruins and Ducks show that the Bruins are marginally less prone to committing errors, but the difference isn't significant. The base running statistics show that Oregon is significantly more aggressive and more effective at stealing bases, but unless the Ducks change their philosophy today, there's no reason to believe that Oregon will convert that advantage into greater run scoring ability.

UCLA Oregon
Batting Average .370 .364
On Base Percentage .471 .466
Home Runs/Game 1.43 1.42
Slugging Percentage .616 .605
OBS 1.087 1.071
Runs/Game 7.97 7.60
ERA 2.63 2.33
Runs Allowed Per Seven Innings 3.17 3.08
Fielding Percentage .969 .966
SB/Game 1.05 1.60
SB Percentage .778 .867

What to Expect

Expect to see another duel between UCLA ace Ally Carda and Oregon ace Cheridan Hawkins. It's important that the Bruins score in the first few innings against Hawkins. If she gets a chance to settle in, the Bruins could be in for a very quick evening.

Although I give the Bruins a slight advantage based on a statistical comparison, I have to give Oregon the overall edge based on the fact that none of the Bruins have played in a Women's College World Series. On the other hand, Oregon played in the Women's College World Series last season, so most of the Ducks have been through the WCWS experience before. Experience in postseason tournament games matters, and unfortunately the Bruins simply don't have any.

In spite of the Bruins' regular season success against Hawkins, the Ducks have to be considered the favorites tonight. Let's hope that Carda is at her best in the circle today and that her teammates are producing runs like they did throughout the regular season and in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Go BRUINS!

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