This weekend at the Wilson/DeMarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas, the smart money was on No. 12 UCLA (9-2) to win big against five unranked opponents.
The team did not disappoint, going 5-0 after senior pitcher Ally Carda recorded her second career no-hitter in the fifth and final game of the weekend.
“It’s always kind of tough to finish out a long weekend strong, but I think the whole team did a great job of finishing out strong,” Carda said. “They just had my back throughout the whole game.”
The Bruins outscored their opponents 54-11 over the course of five games. On Friday, UCLA beat Northwestern 12-3 in the morning, and then went on to beat New Mexico in a five-inning 16-0 game in the afternoon. On Saturday, UCLA beat Utah State 12-4 and then Hawai’i later in the day by a score of 8-4.
UCLA wrapped up its undefeated weekend with a 6-0 victory over Boise State, where Carda faced only 22 batters through seven innings, struck out 11 and walked only two. Most importantly, the senior didn’t allow a hit.
While Carda stole the show with her big performance on Sunday, the Bruins had some standout performances all weekend long, from the pitching staff to the defense to the hitters.
Freshman pitcher Johanna Grauer had a resilient performance after a rough opening weekend in which she allowed opposing batters to hit .344.
Grauer struggled last weekend, giving up nine runs in 14 innings, but this weekend she held the opposition scoreless in seven of her eight innings pitched, including a five-inning complete game shutout against New Mexico. The only inning in which the opposing team scored against Grauer came right after UCLA put up nine runs in the fourth inning against Utah State. Grauer said she started to tighten up as UCLA’s offense rallied off that big inning, but ultimately felt the weekend was a successful one for her.
“Gaining confidence every game is really important,” Grauer said. “This weekend I finally got to settle in a little more.”
The team also improved dramatically on defense. Last weekend the team committed nine errors in six games, but this weekend the team had only three in five games.
“The game is won on defense and it’s lost on defense,” coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “Our goal – always – is to have a flawless defense.”
The offense also really showed up this weekend. Bruin batters went 64 for 143, combining for a .448 batting average over the five-game span.
“After last weekend, we all really settled in,” said sophomore infielder Delaney Spaulding, who batted .647 while going 11 for 17 with nine runs scored and 12 RBI this weekend. “We worked very hard during practice, we hit a lot and we tried to focus on having good at bats and quality at bats and I think it paid off really well.”
The Bruins saw their national rank fall from seventh to 12th on the heels of last weekend’s 3-2 performance. After an undefeated 5-0 weekend, the team is unlikely to fall in the rankings again. But the rankings seem pretty irrelevant to Inouye-Perez, who seems to have made up her mind.
“I think we’re the best team in the country,” Inouye-Perez said. “We’re in what we call a unity phase right now … and we’re headed in the right direction.”
The Bruins start a six-game stretch versus non-conference teams this Thursday in Cathedral City.