For the first five innings of the UCLA-Michigan softball matchup Wednesday night, sophomore pitcher Johanna Grauer was dealing.
But she would falter late in the game, allowing the No. 2 Wolverines (13-2) to score four runs in the final two innings for an 8-6 win over the No. 13 Bruins (9-7).
Although Grauer didn’t start the game, she quickly entered when coach Kelly Inouye-Perez pulled sophomore starter Selina Ta’amilo, who faced only six batters and allowed four runs in the first inning.
Grauer came in and limited Michigan to just four baserunners over the next 5 2/3 innings.
“I felt good, I felt really zoned in,” Grauer said. “I think my off-speed and my curveball were working well.”
However, Grauer would stumble in the sixth inning. With two runners on and the game knotted up at 4-4, Grauer surrendered a towering home run to Michigan freshman Amanda Vargas, who was pinch-hitting in only her 13th at-bat of the season. The three-run shot gave Michigan a 7-4 lead.
“I just left it over the plate,” Grauer said.
The Wolverines would withstand a two-out rally in the seventh inning in which UCLA junior Delaney Spaulding plated two runs.
After the game, the Bruins’ disappointment was palpable.
“We had them on the ropes,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “These are the types of games you gotta win if you want to be able to be one of the last teams standing at the end.”
The disheartening loss was marked by a series of highs and lows for the Bruins.
Grauer’s solid pitching for the majority of the game should serve to provide UCLA with some optimism after her rocky start to the season, but Ta’amilo’s early exit is part of a trend of recent struggles.
With freshman Rachel Garcia and redshirt junior Paige McDuffee out for the foreseeable future, the Bruins will continue to lean heavily on Grauer and Ta’amilo moving into Pac-12 play later this month, so the pair will need to become more dependable moving forward.
Meanwhile, UCLA’s offense, which has been the team’s strength thus far this season, stalled for a large part of tonight’s game apart from a first inning home run by senior third baseman Mysha Sataraka. The Bruins scored most of their other runs on errors and walks. Sataraka acknowledged the offense’s shortcomings.
“We do great things, and we have little faults,” said Sataraka.
If there is a silver lining, though, it’s that the Bruins’ defense, which has been blunder-prone all season, was solid and dependable Wednesday night.
“I think our defense did well,” Spaulding said. “We had zero errors on the board.”
With a medley of positives and negatives to take away from the game against Michigan, UCLA will look to improve moving into the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament this weekend and Pac-12 play later this month.