The UCLA softball team has a saying, “Walk a Bruin to get to another Bruin.”
What it means is: Pitch around us on offense, and we’ll make you pay for it.
On Sunday, the Bruins led by two runs in the bottom of the fourth. With one runner on base and one out, Utah issued a four-pitch walk to freshman third baseman Stephany LaRosa who had already extended her team-high in home runs to 15 in the first inning.
Senior utility Andrea Harrison, a first-team All-American in 2011, followed with a three-run shot to left-center field to help put the game away.
No. 15 UCLA (33-12, 9-6 Pac-12) would tack on three more runs to mercy rule visiting Utah 9-1 on Sunday and complete the Bruins’ first Pac-12 conference series sweep of the year.
“That’s respect,” coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said of the walk issued to LaRosa. “She has swung her stick with authority. As a freshman, to be able to swing and be successful the way she has against all types of opponents, all types of pitching, demands respect.”
“If anything, they’re just not going to give her a good pitch to continue to take out of the park and with the lineup we have, it’s something that I believe allows those kids to be even more successful because if you walk LaRosa then (Harrison) right behind is going to make you pay.”
Hitting third in the lineup, Harrison finished the weekend with three home runs and eight runs batted in on the series.
“You prepare yourself,” Harrison said of batting behind LaRosa. “I’ve been doing this since forever … knowing they may not pitch to the person in front of you, and I just have to be ready. This is why I wanted to be a Bruin ““ put me in situations like that to get the RBIs and get the job done.”
The Bruins bested the visiting Utes (23-21, 0-15) 5-0 behind a complete-game shutout from sophomore pitcher Jessica Hall on Friday. Saturday, Utah engaged UCLA in a slugfest. The Bruins happily obliged, scoring eight runs in the third inning to outlast the Utes 11-8 at home.
UCLA drew 20 walks in the series, a nod to their powerful offense and increased emphasis on pitch selection.
“When we dial into the strike zone and we demand that the pitcher bring strikes, it is a tough lineup to pitch to as you can see with the walks that we’re drawing, and it created opportunities for people to come through with big at bats,” Inouye-Perez said of the offense.
LaRosa leads the team in all three triple-crown categories offensively with a .456 batting average, 15 HR and 57 RBI.
“I’m just stepping in the box and trying to have quality at-bats right now,” LaRosa said.
On Saturday, the Bruins donned pink numbers on their uniforms in an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer.
“I think you can put things in perspective,” Inouye-Perez said of the game. “Our philosophy of our program is family comes first, then school, then softball is the fun part. All of us are in a situation where we have somebody that cancer has affected one of us as far as family, friends, anything so it’s a day to be able to stop and appreciate.”
Climbing the ladder
With two homers on Saturday, Harrison moved into fourth place on UCLA’s all-time home run list. The senior added to her tally on Sunday, increasing her career total to 53.