Saturday, July 20

Softball hopes to continue eight-game winning streak against Cal State Fullerton

The UCLA softball team has been tested with games against three ranked opponents and has taken advantage of opponents they were expected to defeat.

Winners of six of their last eight games by mercy rule, the No. 4 Bruins (10-1) will face the Cal State Fullerton Titans (2-7) today at Easton Stadium in the final game of the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament.

The Titans are led by senior third baseman Sheila Holguin, who is hitting .412, a striking comparison to the team’s overall average of .179.

Redshirt sophomore Krystal Heinle, a 2009 All-Big West Conference Honorable Mention selection as a pitcher has had her struggles early in the season, going 1-3 with a 4.77 earned run average through 22 innings pitched. However, Heinle has struck out 26 batters.

Though the Titans’ stats may not be eye-popping on paper, the Bruins are certainly not taking anything for granted.

“You can’t come out thinking that we can beat them because they can jump on us any time we play them,” junior GiOnna DiSalvatore said. “The last two years we’ve played them, they’ve given us a good game. We have to come out like we are playing a championship game and score early.”

After a tough five-game losing streak at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas, the UCLA coaching staff is prepared to face off against a feisty team hungry for the taste of victory.

“It is kind of a new rivalry in state,” assistant coach Lisa Fernandez said. “They’re just down the street. There will be a lot of fans here and a lot of pride here because we do have a lot of tradition against them. There is a history between us and Fullerton. It’s going to be a big game.”

The Bruins have taken advantage of this weekend to experiment with the line-up, shifting outfielders in and out, as well as the pitching rotation, which is about to be five-deep with junior Whitney Baker’s return.

It helps that UCLA has invoked the mercy rule six times in the course of building its current eight-game winning streak, which started with a 3-2 win over Georgia on Feb. 14.

Junior pitcher Donna Kerr has especially come to life, having struck out an astounding 43 batters in just 23 innings pitched. Kerr, 5-0, has a 0.61 ERA ““ the highest on the team.

The team’s ERA speaks to how well the UCLA softball pitchers have performed to begin the season. And with the rotation so deep this year, these pitchers have collectively worked together to make this unit one of the best in the nation.

“What is so impressive about this team is that they are all so selfless,” Fernandez said. “They all want the ball but they are all very supportive of the person who gets the ball. There are a lot of things you can say about teams with talent, but you also have to have chemistry. And this ball club has it.”

Even with a strong pitching staff, the Bruins are still wary of how the Titans may attack.

“They play us hard every time we play them,” Kerr said. “They give us a good fight and it’s going to be a tough game so whoever is pitching that game has their work cut out for them.”

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