Opening weekend for UCLA softball brought out a lot of commotion to Easton Stadium for the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament.
Six teams kicked off their respective seasons in Westwood, and the Bruins were scheduled to face three of them for a total of five games. However, the team would only complete four games because of rain.
No. 19 UCLA went 3-1 on the weekend, second only to No. 17 Texas A&M, who went undefeated and won the tournament.
The Aggies defeated the Bruins 7-6 in a home run-filled, extra inning affair on Sunday. Texas A&M hit five homers, and while UCLA managed to hit two of its own while battling back to send the game to extra frames, it still fell short.
Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said that she thought there were a lot of positive things to take away from this weekend, despite the loss in their final game of the tournament.
“Before this weekend, I didn’t really know what (this team) was going to look like,” Inouye-Perez said. “I walk away feeling very good about what this team is capable of.”
Sophomore pitcher Ally Carda was the hero for the Bruins in the first two days of the tournament as she helped lead the team to win their first three games.
Despite the rain, Carda struck out eight batters in her season debut against Wright State on Friday night and scored the only run of the game from second base on a wild pitch.
UCLA won 1-0 when the game was called in the bottom half of the fifth inning because of rain. Its second scheduled match Friday against Texas A&M was canceled.
In UCLA’s first Saturday match against McNeese State, Carda came on in relief in the top of the seventh to stop the damage of a three-run inning and take a 4-3 deficit into the bottom half of the inning.
Carda stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and the game tied after a hit by pitch forced in a run. She smashed the ball over the left fielder’s head to drive in the winning run and secure 5-4 victory for the Bruins.
“We kind of have a little saying here, ‘If you give us just one pitch, anything can happen,’” Inouye-Perez said. “And we’ve seen that happen, it’s what great teams do. People will throw punches, but it’s your ability to punch back and when you’re the home team, you put yourself in a great position to literally have the last punch.”
That energy transferred over into the second game of the double header against Wright State as Carda led off with a home run and helped spark the Bruin bats to score four runs in the first inning. They would tack on four more runs before the game ended via mercy in the sixth inning.
“We call it ‘Bruin Magic,’” Carda said. “It definitely transferred over to the second game and gave us a lot of energy … and (got) our bats going.”
Freshman southpaw pitcher Paige McDuffee, who missed her senior season of high school softball because of surgery, threw five innings of shutout ball in her collegiate debut.
“It was really exciting for me, especially coming back from surgery, just being able to come out and be strong,” McDuffee said. “My team had my back. … It was just really fun for me.”
If Carda can build on this strong start to the season, the Bruins say they believe they will have a force to be reckoned with atop of their batting order and pitching rotation.
“Ally started working this summer and knew that she didn’t have the year she wanted to her freshman year,” Inouye-Perez said. “She’s building confidence, she’s literally impacting on both parts – offense and defense – and she’s going to be a big factor in 2013.”