UCLA softball continues their march through the preseason

There are four preseason games remaining on the 2021 UCLA Bruins softball schedule before the team begins to defend its 2019 PAC-12 title on Friday, March 19. After the Bruins beat U.C. San Diego, 7-1, last Tuesday afternoon, March 9, to improve its season record to 11-1, they are scheduled to play consecutive doubleheaders this Thursday and Friday, March 11 and 12, against U.C. Santa Barbara and UNLV, respectively.

The defending National Champions have to be satisfied with their comfortable start. They have come from behind and rallied to win in three games. In their only defeat, a non-Conference 3-1 loss to Oregon at Tempe, Arizona two weekends ago, they rallied in the seventh inning but failed to deliver with the bases loaded and one out. This season, the team has outscored opponents by a combined score of 100-21.

That compares to last year's scoring differential when UCLA outscored opponents by a combined score of 200-33 as they started the season with a 25-1 record. The 2020 PAC-12 season never got underway as it was aborted due to COVID protocols. In 2019, the Bruins and the University of Washington shared 20-4 Conference records. However, UCLA took honors that year as it defeated the Huskies all three Conference games in Seattle before knocking them out, 3-0, in the WCWS.

Three PAC-12 schools dominated the standings in 2019, including Arizona with a 19-5 record. Arizona State (13-11), Stanford (8-13), Oregon State (8-14), Utah (7-17), California (5-18) and Oregon (5-19) rounded out the competition. Yet, eight of the nine programs showed the PAC-12's strength with winning non-Conference records: UCLA (36-2), Washington (32-5), Arizona (29-9), Arizona State (22-9), Stanford (25-7), Oregon State (18-5), Utah (11-19), California (23-9) and Oregon (17-11).

Pitcher Megan Faraimo improved her season record to 7-1 against U.C. San Diego last Tuesday, allowing three hits while striking out 12 in seven innings. It was Faraimo's fourth complete game of the season and her 36th career win as a Bruin. She has 60 total strikeouts, walked five batters and allowed only five earned runs in 43.1 innings pitched this season.

The UCLA offense pushed five runs across the plate in the first two innings to virtually lock the game down against U.C. San Diego. It was a team affair as the Bruin hitters rapped out four doubles, including two by Kinsley Washington, while all seven runs were scored by seven different players. Bubba Nickles, Maya Brady and Washington each had multiple hits. Head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez was also able to substitute seven players off the bench into the game and shuffle five players at multiple positions.

"We have great athleticism and versatility," said Coach Inouye-Perez. "So, we have players that are able to play different positions and have a high-softball I.Q. A big part of that is every game is going to present different opportunities. The best part of sports is you never know what's going to happen. But our ability to respond and understand what needs to be done in various positions is a big part of our strength."

So far this season, ten players have shared the majority of the at-bats. Four players are batting at least .400: Briana Perez (.462), Aaliyah Jordan (.448), Washington (.405), and Kelli Godin (.400). Perez leads the team with 18 total hits, 17 runs, tied with three home runs, two triples and an .897 slugging percentage. Delanie Wisz also has three home runs and 13 RBI's while Washington leads the team with nine doubles and 14 RBI's.

The Bruins are batting .369 as a team while holding opponents to a .153 composite batting average. They have dominated their early-season opponents in practically every offensive category: 120 hits to 40, 38 to 6 in doubles, five to zero in triples, 15 to 9 in homeruns, 95 to 20 in RBI's, 213 to 73 total bases, and .655 to .280 in team slugging percentage. Defensively, the Bruins have only committed six total errors compared to 19 by their opponents. Pitching-wise, UCLA has struck out 88 batters and walked only 16 compared to 57 strikeouts by the Bruin batters while drawing 46 total walks.

The heart of UCLA's schedule, always PAC-12 softball, is on the horizon. So far, the preseason rollout has been an even keel for the Bruins, partly much due to Inouye-Perez' stress on being consistent. "Consistency is the number one thing that I talk to. So, the energy, consistence and our ability to execute: consistence. Our ability to respond to adversity: consistence. We're learning about that and that's something we talked about at practice. We can't get really high or really low, or check in, check out, or just step up in certain moments."


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