WCWS Preview: Can Anybody Stop UCLA?
June 1, 2010
NCAA March Madness
By Jonathan Raber
Special to NCAA.com
LOS ANGELES-If their reputation precedes them, the UCLA Bruins head to Oklahoma City as feared a bunch as one might come across.
Mean spirited they are not. But their bats are downright scary.
"They set out not to score one run, but to score every inning," UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said.
It's that cut-throat mentality that should have opposing pitchers at the NCAA Division I Women's College World Series trembling because the streaking Bruins head into Thursday's opening game against fourth-seeded University of Florida as the nation's hottest offensive unit.
Fresh from consecutive mercy-rule wins over Louisiana-Lafayette in a Super Regional, in which they totaled 20 runs in 10 combined innings, fifth-seeded UCLA (45-11) may prove to be the buzz saw that no one looks forward to facing.
"They have great experience and are very confident," said softball legend and current Bruins assistant coach Lisa Fernandez. "And when you combine those things-talent, confidence and a willing to adjust - you are really unstoppable."
The offense certainly looked like a juggernaut in the two Super Regional wins. The Bruins collected six home runs in getting contributions all throughout the lineup.
Perhaps no one was better than outfielder Samantha Camuso, who wouldn't figure to be a huge power threat from her spot in the bottom half of the order. But all the sophomore did was tally four hits, including two home runs and seven RBI in the sweep.
With the middle part of the Bruins' lineup not getting much in the way of good pitches to work with, Camuso took it upon herself to carry the load.
"Typically, there is always an unsung hero that is going to make the difference in a game," Fernandez said. "The one thing that we stress is-Do you want to be The One?
"And every kid in that lineup wants to be The One. They all have trained for the moment in time where they can say that they are going to be The One."
It's been a fairy-tale ride through the postseason thus far for Camuso, who missed the entire 2009 season after undergoing surgery on a torn labrum. All she's done is homer in each of the five postseason contests to this point and give opponents another threat in the order to have to agonize about.
The danger starts at the top with leadoff hitter GiOnna DiSalvatore, who leads the club in both doubles with 17 and RBIs with 50. Two batters later sits senior Megan Lagerfeld, one of three finalists for national player of the year with her team-best .500 average and 16 homers.
Add in the bottom third of the order, which produced a pair of home runs and four RBI from the eighth and ninth spots in Sunday's clincher, and it becomes obvious that it's "pick your poison" with this bunch.
"We have been able to have power one through nine and even off the bench," Inouye-Perez said.
While the Bruins finished second in the Pacific-10 with 88 homers, don't let them fool you into thinking that they are a one-trick pony. They can get it done in a number of ways.
A fitting example is their conference-leading sacrifice-bunts and sacrifice flies. Both of which are not sexy by any means, but surely effective.
"We want to try and create as much pressure on the defense as we can," Fernandez said. "Whether it is through small ball or through long ball, whatever it takes."
Long considered one of the sport's premier programs, the Bruins' journey towards a possible 12th national championship will likely come or go with the success of their offense.
"If we swing at strikes and play how we know how to play, I think we'll do good," Langenfeld said.
That certainly hasn't been problem to this point. Just ask Louisiana-Lafayette coach Stefni Lotief.
"We've played a lot of good teams this year, and (the Bruins) were very impressive," she said.
Now, UCLA will aim to leave the same lasting impression on the remaining seven other teams-one run at a time.