UTAH STATE 0
The beginning of the collegiate softball season is a succession of tournaments and invitationals in which teams generally play up to five games over the course of three days. It’s a chance for teams to learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses.
Early in the season, the Bruins were able to pinpoint defense as their main issue, but if this past weekend is indicative of anything, they have mostly solved that problem.
UCLA (20-6) closed out that segment of its season with a 5-0 weekend in the Long Beach State Invitational.
The Bruins only had five runs scored against them over the course of the three days.
To combat its struggles on the diamond, UCLA didn’t try to get fancy ““ it went back to the groundwork.
“I think the infielders took 100 grounders each day. Goes to show going back to the basics, things like playing catch, is what helps us,” redshirt senior outfielder Katie Schroeder said.
Although they were intent on improving their game and winning, sophomore pitcher Jessica Hall said one of the most important parts of their game came in terms of letting go.
“One of the biggest things was just learning to have fun with it, not stressing out about what people are saying about us and just getting out there and playing the game,” she said.
Not only did this week carry five wins for the Bruins, it came with two draft picks.
Schroeder and fellow redshirt senior Andrea Harrison were picked in the National Pro Fastpitch draft.
Harrison went fourth overall to the USSSA Florida Pride, and Schroeder was picked up in the second round by the Chicago Bandits.
“It’ll be fun to keep playing; we both enjoy the game and everyone tells us to go as long as we can. … It’s always a good feeling to get drafted. We’re both so blessed to have been picked,” Schroeder said.
Unlike the previous four games, where the team scored at least five runs per game, the final game of the series came with little offensive power for UCLA, which only scored two runs.
Fortunately for the Bruins, the young pitching was still strong after four games. Hall and freshman Ally Carda combined to throw a one-hit shutout.
Schroeder noted the moment when Carda was able to throw three change-ups in a row, a pitch on which she has worked at length, as a standout moment.
Coming out of this segment of the season, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez has learned a lot about her team.
“We walk away with a lot of information,” she said. “We have strengths in our hitting, we need to work on defense and pitching. … I’d like to continue to improve.”
After 26 games in five weeks, the Bruins are ready for a break before moving into the next portion of their schedule.
“Being able to get out there and play was huge. Now we have two weeks off … we really learned a lot,” Schroeder said.