A UCLA softball season that has seen heartbreaking losses and promising performances comes to a head today as the Bruins finish up the regular season with the first game of a three-game series against the Oregon State Beavers.
After struggling early in Pac-12 play, No. 16 UCLA (35-17, 8-13 Pac-12) enters its conference finale on the upswing. The Bruins, winners of their last three games, have been playing well on both sides of the plate in the last leg of the season. UCLA has outscored its opponents 84-40 in its last 10 games and is 7-3 during that stretch.
Meanwhile, Oregon State (32-20, 7-14) has been a team of streaks, both good and bad, and enter today’s contest having lost three straight. The Beavers underwhelmed last weekend, offering little challenge to in-state rival Oregon Ducks as they were outscored 21-1 in three games.
The Bruins realize, however, that with the possibility of hosting a postseason regional tournament still up in the air, they cannot afford to overlook the Beavers.
“(We have to) respect the game. Oregon State’s no drop-off,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “We are going into their house. We are playing great softball, they’re playing great softball. It comes down to our ability to continue to get out there and go for it.”
The possibility of UCLA overlooking an opponent seems less likely than it did earlier in the year. In early April, UCLA dropped two out of three in Salt Lake City against Utah, the only team in the conference with a losing record, in addition to falling to CSU Northridge (24-29, 10-11) on the road.
However, the Bruins’ recent play, which has seen contributions from all over the lineup, has left them feeling confident heading into their final series of the year.
“I think our team is really contagious (this year),” said senior outfielder B.B. Bates. “I mean it could be good or bad, but if we are in a good place, we are all going to do well. We just have to keep pushing and keep doing what we’re doing, and go have fun.”
This last series offers UCLA its final chance at ironing out whatever inconsistencies it may have with the postseason less than 10 days away.
Nowhere is that opportunity more valuable for UCLA than in the circle, where Bruin pitchers will have no room for error in the do-or-die nature of postseason. The Bruin pitchers, who have seen their own share of ups and downs, will have one last chance to build momentum headed into postseason play.
Following back-to-back shutouts last Saturday, junior pitcher Jessica Hall believes the UCLA staff is where it needs to be as postseason approaches.
“I think we are in a good place, that last doubleheader says a lot about where we are headed,” Hall said. “(We’re) just coming out and just playing us and not doing more or less. Just keep doing what we’re doing is fine with me.”