After scoring a total of three runs in two home losses against Stanford, the UCLA softball team and its coaching staff emphasized a greater commitment to run production, especially before traveling to face the nation’s top-ranked team.
Finding a reinforcement of the basics essential for enduring an arduous Pac-10 schedule, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez sought to rejuvenate a team that had won nine consecutive games prior to its first loss in the Stanford series on April 9.
And at the outset against Arizona State, the Bruins certainly looked like the methodical and ruthlessly efficient softball team that dominated the Pac-10 last year.
Redshirt junior center fielder Katie Schroeder led off with a walk in the first inning on Friday and moved over to second on senior third baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore’s single to left. Two outs later, junior first baseman Dani Yudin also walked to load the bases. Freshman shortstop Kellie Fox then connected on a payoff pitch, clearing the bases in grand slam fashion.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Fox said. “It doesn’t get better than that.”
That rousing sentiment didn’t last for long, and while only four runs were needed to capture a 4-1 victory in that opening game, the Bruins went scoreless over the next 20 innings and compiled just 10 hits.
“Timely hitting is a big thing,” Inouye-Perez said. “Kellie did a great job in that first inning in game one, but it was the team’s (inability) to adjust and come up with that timely hit. That’s going to happen. As the pitching gets better in the conference and in the postseason, we are not going to be able to (score) as much as we are used to, so we have to be able to move runners and execute when needed.”
In the circle, Donna Kerr pitched solidly against an ASU team that was hitting .368, second to only Texas Tech in the nation. The senior struck out six over six and a third innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run.
“It was good for me,” Kerr said of her performance on Friday. “I needed to get back into my groove a little bit, and in that game I was definitely able to. It built my confidence, and it was good to start the weekend off with a win. Unfortunately, we didn’t follow through how we wanted to, but we have next weekend to improve.”
Saturday marked the first time UCLA (29-9, 5-4 Pac-10) was held scoreless this season, as Sun Devil pitchers Mackenzie Popescue and Dallas Escobedo shut the Bruins out in back-to-back games, 2-0 on Saturday and 5-0 on Sunday.
The Bruins surrendered just eight runs against the second-best offense in the nation, yet over the three-game set, it was the Sun Devils (39-5, 6-3) who clearly showcased their superiority in the circle.
Like several of her teammates, junior left fielder Andrea Harrison struggled. Coming into the series, she was batting at a .430 clip, but was held hitless in nine at-bats, striking out four times.
“Batting comes and goes, and they’ll always have my back,” Kerr said. “This is a time for pitchers to step up a little bit more and keep our team in the ball game. (The offense is) definitely going to come around ““ I have complete confidence in them.”