The Bruins struggled at the beginning of the season, unable to find consistency as they navigated one of the hardest nonconference schedules. But UCLA softball found a lot of success once Pac-12 play started.
The Bruins won seven of the eight series they competed in, enough for a second-place finish in the conference and a national seed in the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA will now host Cal State Bakersfield, Fresno State and Cal State Fullerton in a double elimination bracket where the winner advances to Super Regionals.
Here is a breakdown of the teams in the regional and how they made the tournament:
Cal State Bakersfield
The NCAA has a rule that if a team has a record below .500, that it is ineligible for a bid to the major postseason tournament. One way to get around the rule is for a team to win its conference tournament. Last week, Bakersfield won its first-ever Western Athletic Conference tournament, earning the league’s automatic bid despite having a 16-32 overall record. The Roadrunners will now make their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level.
For UCLA, this must be seen as a blessing as it makes the chances of advancing to Super Regionals that much more likely. The Bruins open the regional against the Roadrunners, who finished fourth in its conference and 5-10 on the season.
Bakersfield did have a player who was awarded first-team honors for the WAC – Sydney Raeber. The senior hit .318 through 148 at-bats, posting 47 hits, nine doubles and one single.
Fresno State was utterly dominant in the Mountain West Conference, almost posting a perfect conference season. The Bulldogs went 22-1 in the the MWC and 41-10-1 overall on their way to earning the conference’s automatic bid.
Fresno State’s well-balanced team led them to a record-breaking season.
In the circle, the Bulldogs are led by the 2016 Mountain West pitcher of the year, Jill Compton. The senior posted 18 conference wins, more than any other pitcher in league history, and 92 more strikeouts on the season. Senior Paige Gumz was awarded the MW’s Defensive Player of the Year for her work behind the plate. With help of Gumz, Compton recorded a 2.98 ERA through 183 innings pitched.
Kierra Willis and Lindsey Willmon powered Fullerton’s offense. As the one-two combo in the lineup, they hit .373 and .355 respectively and lead the team in slugging percentage. The rest of the lineup was almost as consistent with seven of the nine hitting over .300.
Cal State Fullerton
UCLA played Cal State Fullerton in one of the closer games of the season. Bruin sophomore Selina Ta’amilo threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the midweek matchup against the Titans, allowing UCLA to come back from a 4-1 deficit, winning 5-4.
Fullerton claimed the Big West Conference automatic bid when it won the regular season conference title going 43-14 overall and 17-4 in conference play. This is the Titans’ first NCAA appearance since 2009 and the first Big West title since 2006.
Fullerton poses similar pitching toughness as UCLA. Where the Titans finds its competitive prowess is in its hitting. The team boasts big slap stick hitter Samantha Vandiver, who is hitting .459 through 135 at-bats, as well as power hitter Missy Taukeiaho – who leads the team in home runs with nine, along with Alexis Gonzales. Taukeiaho has a slugging percentage of .673