If the first series of a season is indicative of what’s to come, the eyes and ears of the Bruin faithful should stay focused on softball.
The Bruins opened their season 4-0 with the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament, doing so with not just exceptional offense, defense or pitching, but rather all three.
UCLA beat Kentucky 7-1 on Thursday, 12-0 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday. Earlier on Saturday, it beat Pacific 10-2.
Several of the Bruins’ high-scoring wins this past weekend were dependent on the long ball, including three homers on Friday over the Wildcats.
Even when they couldn’t get the ball out of the park, they managed to put together series of hits to push players along the base path.
In Saturday’s final game, the Bruins pulled ahead 3-0 in the first only to have the Wildcats respond with two consecutive homers in the second. There was a lull in scoring until the fifth, when UCLA put together a succession of hits that inflated the score to 6-2.
“Long balls are bonus. We focus on going 60 feet at a time, not about the home run,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
Pitching from freshman Ally Carda, sophomore Jessica Hall and junior Destiny Rodino dominated. The Bruins’ opponents had 10 hits over four games ““ UCLA produced 47.
Even when pitchers struggled, defense came through.
UCLA entered Saturday afternoon with a 0.00 ERA. There had been few issues for the staff throughout the tournament, which changed at the start of the tournament’s closing game.
Carda found herself in the first pickle of her college career in the first. She opened the game with two walks, threw around 40 pitches and allowed a stolen base ““ yet still managed to exit the inning with a blank scoreboard.
“Good pitching will always stop good hitting,” Inouye-Perez said. “That was a great opportunity for our pitcher to figure out how to get out of that situation, and the defense was right behind her.”
The slimmer score in the final game as compared to the previous three didn’t faze UCLA. After facing each other twice, the teams knew one another.
“They know our strengths and weaknesses and they play to them. They know us, it’s going to be closer and that’s what made it more fun,” said senior catcher Dani Yudin.
Carda comes into college as one of the most prized recruits in the country. She toggles between first and the mound with ease, and when she’s pitching, she relies on Yudin to help her from behind the plate.
“She’s helped me tremendously, from signs to mental game,” Carda said. “It’s awesome to have her behind the plate.”
The No. 13 Bruins went into the season with plenty of hype, and they seem to have lived up to it with this past weekend’s strong, undefeated showing.
“This team can clearly hit and our pitching did a great job, and I was so proud of our defense,” Inouye-Perez said. “I’m proud overall, they did a lot of little things that represent big things.”