Let's face it, they're UCLA. They are going to play whoever they want. This is a YOUNG team (more on that in a bit) and the season actually started on a sour note, as they lost to #58 RPI Purdue 2-1. They had a wild 16-10 win over #22 RPI Northwestern, as well as a 9-6 win over #20 RPI Kentucky (as well as a 7-4 loss to #6 RPI Michigan) in one early-season tournament. They would sweep one tournament with wins over #23 RPI UMASS and #35 Fresno State. They would close out their non-con (and once Pac 10 season starts, that's it for non-con games) with wins over #25 RPI Notre Dame and a split with #97 UCSB. This wrapped up their record at 25-4.
Pac 10 Action:
With five teams in the top-12 of the RPI, winning the Pac 10 is certainly an accomplishment. UCLA did it even more impressively, coming from the back to do so. After losing their final non-con game against Santa Barbara, they would beat #9 RPI Stanford on the road, but then lose their next four conference games. They'd get back on track with a win over #7 RPI Arizona, and then rip off eight straight additional wins, including a two-game home sweep of #4 RPI Washington. Their final loss of the season would come against the Huskies up in Seattle, but that was on April 29th, and the Bruins have won nine straight games, including their last six in conference to win it.
Offense: (stats through May 17)
UCLA is led by the leadoff and do-everything hitter CF Katie Schneider (soph). She is currently batting 409, scoring 57 runs on 67 hits 19 steals and an OBP of .525 (leading the team in all categories). She also leads the team in HR's (14) and slugging (.707) Other feared batters for the Bruins include C Kalia Shull (junior) who was 2nd on the team at .365 and 2nd in HR's with 11 while leading in RBI's with 57. The lone senior on the team is 2B Amanda Kamekona who hit .332 (2nd on the team in hits with 61 and stolen bases with 12) with 9 HR's and a team-high 19 doubles. Don't forget about returning All-American RF/1B GiOnna DiSalvatore (soph) who hit .342 with a little bit of everything (13 doubles/4 triples/5 HR's). They boast SEVEN starters with a batting average of .300 or over. On the whole, UCLA hit .320 (.177 opposition) with 77 HR's (33 opposition), slugging of .554 (.285 opposition) and OBP of .411 (.261 opposition). They stole 54 bases (19 opposition) on 65 chances.
As expected, UCLA was pretty damn fantastic in the field this season, only committing 31 errors for a fielding percentage of .978. 2B Amanada Kamekona (senior) was the weak link (if you can call her that) in the field with eight errors. The left side of 3B Julie Burney (junior) and SS Monica Harrison (soph) combined for only 11 errors on the season.
UCLA has three pitchers, all of whom started 12 games or more this past season. Their statistical leader is Megan Langenfeld (junior), who leads the squad in record (16-1), ERA (0.99) and BA against (.145). However, she is also their 1B on many ocasssions, and rolled an ankle over the weekend, which kept her from pitching the final game. Donna Kerr (soph) actually had the most starts for UCLA (26), wins (19-6), IP (166.1) and K's (228), but seems to be the #2 option at this point (2.65 ERA). Backing them up is Whitney Baker (RS soph) who the Tigers faced back in March who went 9-2 on the season with a 3.10 ERA in 15 starts and 61 innings.
Among the prohibited items for Easton Stadium (found here) are unsliced fruits or vegetables. Oh yeah, and UCLA Softball has won 11 national titles, the most of any D-1 school.
The Bruins finished 45-7 in the regular season and 17-4, which was actually a game off the pace in the Pac 10 (won by Arizona State). They were led by senior pitcher Anjelica Selden, and went tearing through the Regional and Super Regional to arrive at the WCWS. They got off on the right foot in OKC, beating conference foe Arizona 1-0 before losing to eventual champ Arizona State 4-0 and were eliminated by Florida 2-0.
Is there any way I can sit here and tell you I believe Mizzou is going to win this series this weekend? Not really. CAN we win this series? I think we can play with almost any team in the country if some things are working for us. Chelsea Thomas HAS to be on and working the ball low. She also cannot afford to be nervous coming out of the shoot. If her ball is down and the defense is working, we can hang with anyone. On offense however, people like Ubrun, Schweisberger and Christopher NEED to break out again and start hitting again like they were a few weeks ago.
This series is a tall mountain to climb for the program, but one that is not an impossible ascent. I am not making any sort of prediction on this one as I will likely not even see a minute of the action this weekend while out of town.