Go Joe Bruin takes a look at UCLA Softball on their way to the WCWS and a possible 114.
There were many non-believers, including a certain major sports network that starts with ES and ends with PN, but the UCLA Softball team showed their worth when they defeated Oregon twice in a row yesterday.
Although the Bruins cleaned up their pitching to keep Oregon only at one run throughout the game, the offense struggled to score in Game 2 of the series. At the bottom of the seventh, when it seemed the Bruins would be heading home after all, Gabrielle Maurice found the sweet spot to hit her seventh homer of the season, forcing the game to extras.
Selina Ta’amilo, who pitched a career-high nine innings, kept the Ducks quiet during the eighth and ninth. It was at the bottom of the ninth that UCLA found the necessary momentum to get Brianna Tautalafua to score after a single by Madeline Jelenicki. It was at this moment that the Bruins would close Game 2 and force a Game 3.
If the Ducks believed for even just a moment that the Bruins had given their all already, then they must have been surprised when UCLA came out swinging to take the lead 1-0 in the first inning. The Bruins would extend their lead in the fourth with a double by Mysha Sataraka.
Pitcher Paige McDuffee, who had had an abysmal performance in Game 1, came out to Game 3 determined and ready to shut down the Oregon offense. McDuffee kept the Ducks from quacking for most of the game, until Oregon scored to bring the game 2-1 and had a player in the red zone. Nevertheless, a foul ball by the Ducks would end the game and the suffering of those watching it, giving the Bruins a ticket to the WCWS.
Up next, the Bruins will face #4 Auburn in Oklahoma City. Although UCLA did not face the Tigers in the regular season, it was Auburn who knocked the Bruins off the WCWS last year.
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In an intense game that was extended to 10 innings, the Bruins simply could not keep up, and they fell to the Tigers 11-10.
The Bruins improved to a 40-14-1 overall record after defeating Oregon, while the Tigers now boast a 54-10 record after beating Arizona 2-1 at Super Regionals.
Both teams arrive to the WCWS in similar fashion since both lost their respective first games to their opponents before finding the strength to win games 2 and 3 on the same day. Auburn is a high-powered offense and the Bruins will rely heavily on the bullpen to win this game.
Although Auburn is a strong opponent, I believe that the Bruins can upset the Tigers. That is, if they can manage to have an error-free game. The game will air on ESPN on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. PST.
My bold prediction: 5-2 UCLA.