Tuesday, February 18

UCLA softball prepares to play six games in five days

Junior infielder Brianna Tautalafua has had a hot start to her season. Last weekend she tallied nine runs batted in and three homeruns in UCLA's first five games of the year. (Jenna Smith/Daily Bruin)

After a perfect opening weekend, No. 5 UCLA softball (5-0) will be busy yet again, with six games in the next five days.

The first game for UCLA will be a home game against Fordham on Thursday. The Bruins head to Cathedral City, California, for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, California, where the team will face UCSB, Syracuse, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Grand Canyon University and will also play an exhibition against Team Japan.

“It’s always nice to get a chance to play at home and get a midweek game in before we head down to Palm Springs,” said assistant coach Kirk Walker. “Playing on the road is always opportunity to use some additional learning.”

UCLA will try and keep the bats hot and continue its offensive production going into week two of the season.

Junior infielder Brianna Tautalafua became the early home run leader after launching three over the wall this weekend. She said her teammates were part of the reason for her early success at the plate.

“I think that having the confidence from my team and having their support has helped a lot,” Tautalafua said. “They have my back and they know that I will have their back whenever they need me.”

Sophomore utility and pitcher Bubba Nickles played a big part in the offensive showcase as well. She has collected at least one hit in the last four games, including her first homer of the year. She said staying within her limits is what she thinks has helped her see the ball well.

The most intriguing matchup for UCLA softball this weekend will be the game against Team Japan, which consists of both national and junior national team members.

Nickles and several other UCLA players have had experience playing international teams before, and said they are excited to play against a team with a different culture of softball.

“I’ve played Team Japan in the past playing for (the USA junior national team),” Nickles said. “We’re all excited because the way they play is a lot different than the way we do here.”

Team Japan prefers to play in shorts. Aside from that, the main differences consist of how it approaches the plate when compared to UCLA.

The last time Team Japan was in a tournament, they hit no home runs. Meanwhile, UCLA has hit six in just five games this year, all coming from three players.

UCLA is more focused on the experience of the match since it is an exhibition and has no effect on the team’s record.

“Any time we step on the field, we want to compete and gain something from it,” coach Walker said. “Some players have had the opportunity to play internationally and against Japan, so it’ll be a great opportunity for the rest of them to see what international play is all about.”

Thursday night’s game against Fordham will be the Rams first in the 2018 campaign.

UCSB (4-1) will be UCLA’s first of four opponents in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. UCSB beat both Santa Clara and Sacramento State twice, with its first loss coming at the hands of No. 23 California.

The Gauchos are the most successful team the Bruins will face this weekend, and are averaging five runs batted per game, but are allowing almost four on average. The Bruins, on the other hand, are averaging nearly 10 RBIs per game.

Grand Canyon (3-3) broke even for its first weekend of competition with two losses aginst No. 1 Oklahoma. The wins came against Weber State and Montana twice.

UAB (1-4) has had a slow start to its season, suffering two shutout losses and a 15-4 blowout against Georgia State.

UCLA will conclude its second weekend of competition with its game against Team Japan.

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Sports staff

Veal is currently a Sports staff writer for the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter for the softball, women's water polo, men's soccer and cross country beats.

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