Opponent: #3-seed Michigan (57-6)
When: Friday, May 29, 6:30 PM PDT
Where: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City, OK
Live Stats: NCAA GameCenter Live Stats
UCLA Resources: UCLA Official Preview | UCLA Media Guide
NCAA Resources: NCAA Bracket
DAY TWO!! GAMEDAY!! pic.twitter.com/1h9feKolyR— UCLA Softball (@UCLASoftball) May 29, 2015
UCLA's perfect record in 2015 postseason play remained intact after the Bruins beat the Oregon Ducks 7-1 in the late game of opening day of the Women's College World Series. Although none of the Bruins had any WCWS experience heading into this season's showcase, UCLA looked aggressive and assured in their opening game against the second-ranked team in the nation.
With yesterday's win, the Bruins play a winners bracket game this evening against #3 Michigan. The Wolverines advanced to the winners bracket with a 5-0 win against #6 Alabama. Although the Wolverines are one of the best hitting teams in the country, they managed only four hits against Alabama, though one of them was a grand slam.
Opportunistic Bruins Defeat the Ducks
#BruWINS is all we gotta say. Congrats, @UCLASoftball, for advancing to face Michigan in the #WCWS winner's bracket! pic.twitter.com/IsBeXEvLGA— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) May 29, 2015
The Bruins never trailed against the Ducks. A pair of second inning home runs by Stephany LaRosa and Gabrielle Maurice gave the Bruins a lead that they wouldn't relinquish. Ally Carda took a shutout into the seventh inning before Oregon scored a consolation run. In case you haven't read it already, JoeBruin15 has a full recap of yesterday's action.
The video highlights are worth watching if for nothing else than some terrific defensive plays by the Bruins, and in particular, a fantastic catch by Allexis Bennett in left-center to rob the Ducks of an extra base hit.
UCLA Softball vs. Oregon Highlights 5.28.15 http://t.co/ThqKHgqJa3— Gabriela Santos (@Bruinette88) May 29, 2015
Ally Carda went the distance, scattering six hits and allowing a single run. Carda also went 2 for 4 at the plate. Stephany LaRosa's late season power surge continued yesterday. She's now tied for the team lead with 20 home runs this season. Gabrielle Maurice's home run was her 10th of the year. Mysha Sataraka and Kylee Perez each drove in a pair of runs.
A Statistical Comparison of the Bruins and the Wolverines
As the table below shows, Michigan and UCLA are arguably the best hitting teams in the nation. While UCLA leads the nation in team batting average and is second in on-base percentage, Michigan is second in home runs per game and third in slugging percentage. More significantly, the Wolverines are second in the country in runs scored per game, averaging about a third of a run more per game than UCLA.
Michigan has excellent pitching stats too. The Wolverines are fourth in the nation in ERA at 1.59, which compares favorably to UCLA's 2.63 ERA. On average, the Wolverines allow a little more than one run less per game than the Bruins, which represents a significant statistical advantage. Although the fielding and base running statistics show little difference between the Bruins and Wolverines, Michigan has slightly better numbers in each instance.
So what are we to make of the apparently large statistical edge that Michigan holds?
It's important to remember that the statistical examination of two Pac-12 teams (UCLA & Oregon) in yesterday's preview represented a comparison of teams playing similar schedules and largely facing the same opponents. On the other hand, Michigan plays a much different schedule in a weaker conference. Whereas the Pac-12 has seven teams ranked in the top-30, the Big Ten has only two.
The Big Ten has some particularly weak teams, and the Wolverines padded their statistics against them. For example, Michigan outscored Ohio State 46-2 in a three game series, and the Wolverines walloped Rutgers in three straight games by a combined score of 39-3. Those numbers reflect the quality of Michigan's lineup and pitching staff, but they also mean that a meaningful statistical comparison of the Bruins and Wolverines is extremely difficult.
For what it's worth, the Wolverines beat Arizona State twice in three tries this season. The combined score from the three games was 13-9. The Bruins also played ASU three times, but won just one of the games despite outscoring the Sun Devils 28-24.
|On Base Percentage||.471||.462|
What to Expect
Michigan has a pair of excellent pitchers, but in big games, Megan Betsa (31-4, 1.50 ERA) usually starts in the circle. However, Betsa threw a complete game, four-hit shutout yesterday, so don't be surprised if she is pulled at the first sign of trouble. Haylie Wagner (22-2, 1.82 ERA) is the Wolverines' second-choice pitcher. She's a pitch-to-contact type pitcher, which represents a tough change of pace from Betsa who averages almost a one and a half strikeouts per inning.
The Wolverines haven't surrendered many long balls this season, but they haven't faced many teams with as much power as the Bruins. Against Michigan's tough pitching staff, the Bruins will need to repeat the same formula that brought them success against the Ducks: opportunistic hitting and exceptional fielding. Of course UCLA will only go as far as Ally Carda's right arm can take them. If she struggles early, the Bruins will be in trouble.
Yesterday's game against the Ducks proved that the Bruins aren't fazed by being on the big stage. The Bruins have also demonstrated many times this season that they aren't about to panic if they fall behind in games. Coach Inouye-Perez has developed a mentally tough team, and that may ultimately be the key factor that separates this team from the WCWS competition.