Missed opportunities doomed the Cal State Fullerton softball team in its 5-2 loss to No. 2 UCLA on Thursday in front of a sellout crowd at Anderson Family Field.
Third baseman Missy Taukeiaho got the game started with a bang, muscling a high and away pitch over the right-center field fence to give the Titans an early 1-0 lead. Taukeiaho increased her Big West leading home run total to 13 after her first inning blast. The sophomore transfer had experience facing UCLA starting pitcher Ally Carda with her first year playing for the Washington Huskies.
“We faced them last year playing with Washington and we swept them, it was a pretty good series though. We faced Carda, so it was pretty familiar,” Taukeiaho said. “I wasn’t too overwhelmed or worried about playing tonight.”
The Titans seemed poised for another upset over a top-ranked team after the early lead. Previously this season, CSUF has notched big wins over defending national champions Oklahoma and No. 12 Baylor.
However, UCLA quickly erased the Titan lead in the second inning with a three-run bomb courtesy of right fielder Jelly Felix. CSUF starting pitcher Monique Wesley would be pulled at the end of the inning in favor of freshman Christina Washington.
Washington worked herself into jams in the next pair of innings, but made the key pitch when it counted to get out of each inning unscathed. Washington gave up two hits and a walk in her two innings of work.
Jasmine Antunez was next called on by Head Coach Kelly Ford in the fifth inning to quell the potent Bruin offense. Like Washington, Antunez bent but did not break in her inning of work, giving up three walks but no hits while striking out one.
“When you’re facing such a great hitting team, you’re very cautious with where you’re placing the pitches,” Ford said about the seven walks by CSUF pitchers in the game. “I wish we could have taken three or four of those walks back for sure because that gave them freebies. Great teams capitalize on freebies, and they capitalized on them. It hurt us.”
The Titans threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. UCLA committed an error on what appeared to be a routine double play. Senior left fielder Leesa Harris grounded the ball back to Carda, but Carda’s toss to second base sailed to the left of Delaney Spaulding. Taukeiaho singled after Carda’s error, loading the bases for the Titans. With no outs and the bases juiced, Carda struck out two Titans and induced a lazy infield pop fly to escape the inning. Carda’s brilliant mix of her rise ball and her changeup were what aided her to get out of the jam.
“We haven’t seen a rise ball that good in a while, we chased that sucker,” Ford said. “And then she’s got a great off speed. She just has a calm presence, I was very impressed with her.”
Wesley returned in the sixth inning to finish off the game. The sophomore ran into trouble almost immediately as the Bruins loaded the bases with only one out.
Spaulding hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home the fourth UCLA run and a bases loaded walk forced in the fifth to give the visiting Bruins a four run cushion.
The Titans were able to scrap across a run in the seventh inning, but that was all the comeback bid could muster. Senior catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama hit a sharp grounder to right field to drive in Harris to pad the CSUF stats. With the win, Carda’s record moves to an impressive 21-2 while the loss drops Wesley to 3-3 on the season.
The Titans should be encouraged by a valiant effort against a powerhouse program in which they set themselves up with numerous opportunities to win. CSUF was in position to topple another top-ranked school, but timely hitting would ultimately be the deciding factor in this game.
“I’m of course disappointed with the loss because we’re capable. We played right with them, and a few breaks and a few different outcomes and we have a victory,” Ford said. “We competed with them and that is inspiring.”
For more information on the CSUF softball team and all Titan Athletics, go to FullertonTitans.com.