Pac-12 play is a grind.
Each weekend brings another game with a school from the conference of champions.
But this week, Cal State Fullerton (23-18, 6-3 Big West) will slip into No. 8 UCLA (29-12, 5-7 Pac-12) softball’s schedule for a nonconference matchup.
“Midweeks are always a bit of a challenge in that you get into a rhythm of a format: single series against a Pac-12 opponent,” said Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “Midweeks can be a formula for a letdown.”
After UCLA’s series defeat to Oregon State (21-18, 4-8), Fullerton presents an opportunity to recapture its composure and momentum before its next Pac-12 challenge.
UCLA seized the first meeting against Fullerton earlier this season, winning 2-0. Defensive errors sabotaged the Titans’ bid to upset the Bruins. Cal State Fullerton committed four errors – two leading directly to UCLA’s decisive two-run sixth inning.
The Bruins possess statistical advantages across the board offensively.
UCLA is owner to a team batting average of .307 compared to Cal State Fullerton’s .265. An integral part for the Bruins’ batting average is junior second baseman Kylee Perez – who is sporting a .409 average.
Power-wise, the Titans have a season total of 13 home runs. UCLA’s junior first baseman Madeline Jelenicki and sophomore third baseman Brianna Tautalafua each have gone deep 10 times. As a team, the Bruins have notched 47 home runs.
In the circle, redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia leads the Bruins. She is owner of a 13-7 record alongside a 2.17 earned run average and 119 strikeouts. Joined by juniors Johanna Grauer and Selina Ta’amilo along with redshirt senior Paige McDuffee, UCLA harbors a team 2.71 ERA.
For the Titans, senior Kelsey Kessler is the ace – leading the team with 123.2 innings pitched. Kessler boasts a 1.75 ERA and has dusted 113 batters in the box. Cal State Fullerton posts a nearly identical ERA of 2.70.
With the Bruins hosting the Titans, another category beyond strikeouts and RBIs becomes relevant – and potentially pivotal. Cal State Fullerton owns an 11-1 away record.
UCLA will look to defend its home field Tuesday as Cal State Fullerton hopes to maintain its momentum away from home.
“I look forward to it,” Inouye-Perez said. “Fullerton, we always have good battles with them and they are a team we can potentially face in the postseason.”