The final scores are shocking, alarming, even a bit confusing.
In the Super Regionals of the NCAA softball playoffs, teams are not supposed to win 10-2, even at home, even in ideal circumstances, even if they are as good as UCLA.
And they’re especially not supposed to win 10-1 the next day.
Yet that’s just what the Bruins did to Louisiana-Lafayette last weekend, twice mercy-ruling the Ragin’ Cajuns to advance to the Women’s College World Series, which begins today in Oklahoma City.
It gives us great confidence,” said Megan Langenfeld, the team’s leading hitter and a finalist for USA Softball national player of the year honors. “Any ‘W’ would be great; we definitely don’t have to score 30 runs to win. Just more than they score.”
So often this season, that foreign strategy worked.
The Bruins entered the season with a renewed emphasis on station-to-station softball, fully understanding that their swings just got too big last year, when they failed to advance to the WCWS for the second time in three years.
“We definitely have had a great focus on doing the little things this year – if that means putting a bunt down and a run comes out of it, we definitely credit the bunter,” Langenfeld said. “Instead of placing an all-or-nothing attitude from the previous years, it’s about moving her 60 feet. If I don’t do it, I know my teammate will. It’s been a joint effort.”
So then, Megan, explain the team’s 94 home runs? Explain your 16, a year after just seven?
“I am a little surprised – I went into this season with a little different mentality. I remember sitting down in the winter with my hitting coach back home, and he said just make sure you go for it. Just remember to not hold anything back. I thought about it, and it really clicked with me.”
It’s seemed to click with the whole team.”
“Every hitter, a true hitter, is going into the game knowing they can do some damage,” said UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez, whose Bruins will face No. 4 Florida today. “We go in with an attack mentality. Have a plan before you go in and attack. Have an area code. We want to be the best damn team with two strikes in the country. This team can hit. This team can hit, there’s no secret about that. But your mentality has to be to respect the game.”
That’s where UCLA’s pitching comes in.
While the team’s batting statistics are startling – the Bruins bat .333 with 186 extra-base hits in 56 games – UCLA’s pitching has been equally impressive.
Langenfeld and sophomore Aleah Macon sport twin 11-1 records, while junior Donna Kerr is 18-7 with a 2.37 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 30 starts.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t say it’s one or the other,” Inouye-Perez said about her team’s biggest strength. “We separate the game in two, that’s the nature of the game. Your ability to stop the opponent and play 9-on-1 on defense, but a big strength of this team has been the ability to produce runs, from the top to the bottom. It’s not dominant one way or the other. The object of the game is to outscore the opponent.”