UCLA baseball makes NCAA cut, heads to Long Beach Regional

UCLA won’t have to travel far for its ninth postseason appearance since 2006.

The Bruins earned the No. 3 seed in the Long Beach Regional for the NCAA tournament when the field of 64 was announced during Monday’s selection show.

After missing postseason play last year, UCLA (30-25) finished third in the Pac-12 and 51st in RPI.

UCLA will play Texas (37-22) in the first round of the four-team, double-elimination regional tournament on Friday at Blair Field at 4 p.m. Big West champion Long Beach State (37-17-1) will face Mountain West champion San Diego State (41-19) at 8 p.m. in the first round. Both games will be on ESPN2.

“It’s a cliche, but I think it is truly, if not the strongest regional in the field, it’s certainly one of them,” UCLA head coach John Savage said of the Long Beach Regional.

The only regional team the Bruins have a win against this year is host Long Beach State. UCLA outlasted the Dirtbags 2-1 in 11 innings on April 18 and then won 5-1 on April 25, but got swept in a three-game series by Texas in March and lost both games against San Diego State. The Aztecs won 5-4 in April at home, then scored four unanswered runs in the eighth and ninth innings for an 8-6 comeback win at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

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UCLA softball advances to Super Regional

UCLA’s Brianna Tautalafua shows her excitement after hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning during finals of the NCAA Softball Regional against Cal State Fullerton at Easton Stadium in UCLA in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 21, 2017. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

A grand slam by Brianna Tautalafua and a clutch strike out by Rachel Garcia decided two critical bases-loaded situations for the UCLA softball team that allowed the fifth-seeded Bruins to advance to the NCAA Super Regional after a 9-1 win over Cal State Fullerton on Sunday.

Garcia, who was starting her third straight game Sunday, was stellar down the stretch as she retired 12 of the final 13 batters. She worked out of a third-inning jam that proved to be one of the critical moments of the game. With the bases loaded and UCLA holding on to a one-run lead, Garcia struck out CSF catcher Kylie Padilla to retire the side and keep the Titans scoreless.

Tautalafua then hit a grand slam in the fifth inning, which was part of a five-run frame for the Bruins that broke a previously tight game open. She had three home runs and eight RBIs during UCLA’s three regional wins as the Bruins collected 27 total runs.

UCLA hosts Ole Miss in the Super Regional, which starts Thursday at Easton Stadium. Unlike previous years, the best-of-three series to decide who will advance to the Women’s College World Series, will be played with one game a day, with the third game if necessary instead of a three-game, two-day format.

MORE ON UCLA’S REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WIN

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Lonzo Ball stars in UCLA win over Cincinnati

UCLA guard Lonzo Ball (2) celebrates after hitting a three-point shot against Cincinnati during a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 19, 2017. UCLA won 79-67. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Rare is it that Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s single-season assist leader, goes a half without an assist. He more than made up for his relatively slow start Sunday night.

The fantastic freshman continued to dazzle for the Bruins (31-4) as he dished out nine second-half assists and racked up 18 points with seven rebounds in UCLA’s 79-67 win over Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Sacramento. The No. 3 Bruins advanced to face No. 2 Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday at 6:40 p.m. PT in Memphis.

Ball knocked down two critical 3-pointers, starting with one at the 13:31 mark in the second half that gave UCLA a two-point lead it never relinquished. He scored when he had to, but he also energized his struggling teammates.

TJ Leaf and Bryce Alford combined for three points in the first half, but finished with 11 and 16 points, respectively.

Aaron Holiday continued his stellar play off the bench during the NCAA Tournament with five points, two steals and five assists with no turnovers. The sophomore had 16 assists in the past two games with only two turnovers.

Links to wrap up the win:

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Video: Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford, Steve Alford talk about second-round win

UCLA head coach Steve Alford and guards Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford talk about UCLA’s 79-67 win over Cincinnati on Sunday in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.

Ball led the Bruins with 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists with only one turnover as he hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half that spurred UCLA to the win. Alford had 16 points (13 in the second half) on 5-for-13 shooting with three assists and one steal.

UCLA advanced to its third Sweet 16 in four years and will face No. 2 Kentucky on Friday at 6:40 p.m. PT in Memphis.

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