LOS ANGELES – The Cal State Fullerton softball team fought hard against No. 12/14 UCLA in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional, but the Titans' saw their rally cut short as they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Bruins on Sunday at Easton Stadium.
The Titans' season comes to an end as they finish the year 45-16 overall and 17-4 in Big West Conference action. Cal State Fullerton recorded 45 wins for the first time since the 2002 season and reached the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2009. Additionally, the Titans won the Big West Championship for the first time in a decade during their extraordinary season.
However, all good things must come to an end and the Titans' 2016 season saw its conclusion after their sixth-inning rally was cut short and the Bruins held on to win the game and improve to 38-13-1 on the year. UCLA will play Oregon in Super Regionals.
"I am so proud and honored to coach this team," Cal State Fullerton head coach Kelly Ford said in the postgame press conference. "These student-athletes just gave everything they have and it was a battle. UCLA is a solid team. They are very well-coached and just solid all the way around."
The Titans sent freshman right-hander Sydney Golden (18-6) into the circle to go up against UCLA sophomore righty Johanna Grauer.
Cal State Fullerton's offense started chipping away at Grauer early as the Titans left runners on the corners in the first before tallying three runs in the second.
Kylie Padilla kicked off the second inning with a leadoff walk and Sydney Colenzo doubled to right-centerfield to put a pair of runners in scoring position. Delynn Rippy roped a one-out double off the right-centerfield wall to clear the bases and give the Titans a 2-0 lead.
With two outs on the board, and Missy Taukeiaho stepping to the plate, UCLA made a pitching change and brought in Selina Ta'amilo (18-5) to replace Grauer. Taukeiaho wasted no time as she drilled the ball off the leftfield fence for a long single which plated Rippy to push the Titans' lead to three (3-0).
Golden started off solid as she did not allow the Bruins to connect for a hit until the third inning. But when they did, their offense was difficult to contain. Following a fielder's choice and back-to-back singles, one of which scored the Bruins' first run of the game, UCLA's Delaney Spaulding belted a three-run home run over the leftfield fence to give the Bruins a 4-3 lead. The homer marked Spaulding's third against Cal State Fullerton in the last two days.
Cal State Fullerton made a pitching change and brought in senior lefty Desiree Ybarra to pitch to Mysha Sataraka. However, Sataraka launched a solo shot to go back-to-back with Spaulding and put the Bruins on top by two (5-3).
After giving up the homer to Sataraka, Ybarra turned in another solid outing. She retired the next six batters and did not allow another run the rest of the way, keeping the Titans in striking distance.
With Ybarra keeping the Bruins in check, the Titans' offense had a chance to get going again. Cal State Fullerton did a good job connecting for base hits as the Titans racked up 10 hits in the game, but struggled to bring the runs home as they left 10 runners on base.
In the top of the fourth, Cal State Fullerton threatened, but stranded runners at the corners. Then in the fifth, the Titans left a runner in scoring position.
The Titans' best opportunity for a comeback came in the sixth inning when Rippy legged out an infield single and advanced to second on an error. Samantha Vandiver singled back up the middle to put runners at the corners with one out for Taukeiaho.
Taukeiaho drew an intentional walk – her second of the game – to load the bases for Alexis Gonzalez who singled up the middle and brought the Titans within one (5-4).
With the bases still loaded and just one out, the Bruins made a defensive change and a pitching change as they brought in Paige McDuffee to relieve Ta'amilo. Following the break in action, the Titans were unable to capitalize as a fielder's choice got the runner going home and a fly out ended the inning and kept UCLA's one-run lead intact.
Down to their last three outs, the Titans went down in order as McDuffee earned her second save of the year and preserved the win for the Bruins.
Ta'amilo was credited with the win after pitching 4.0 innings in relief. She allowed one run on seven hits, while striking out three and walking two.
Golden suffered the loss after tossing 2.2 innings and allowing four runs on three hits.
Ybarra was solid in relief as she pitched 3.1 innings and allowed one run on three hits, while striking out four and walking two.
Rippy finished the game batting 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs, while Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Taukeiaho went 1-for-2 with two intentional walks and an RBI.