Nine different players contributed with a home run last weekend, whether it was senior shortstop Delaney Spaulding, who hit .706, or freshman third baseman Bubba Nickles, who scored a team-leading eight runs.
“This team has the ability to score a lot of runs,” coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “In the history of this program, we can hit.”
In Wednesday’s double header against No. 22 Kentucky (3-2), No. 6 UCLA softball (5-0) will face its next test: the Wildcats’ pitching staff.
Led by freshman pitcher Larissa Spellman, the Wildcats’ circle is seeking to hamper UCLA’s red hot offense. In four appearances, Spellman has yet to give up a run in her collegiate career.
She is joined by a pair of senior pitchers in Meagan Prince and Shannon Smith. Prince and Smith combined for 30 strikeouts over the weekend.
Kentucky will have its hands full with UCLA’s pitching staff which posted a 0.47 ERA in its first five games of the season.
Redshirt freshman Rachel Garcia dusted opponents with 13 strikeouts pitched in 10 innings without allowing a run. Juniors Johanna Grauer and Selina Ta’amilo allowed a combined two runs in 19 innings pitched.
“Our pitchers had great command in the circle. If anything happened, they stopped any momentum,” Inouye-Perez said.
UCLA and Kentucky may have the scorekeeper busy this Wednesday night. The Wildcats have displayed power with six home runs and the Bruins are averaging close to 10 runs per game.
“We’re confident but not overly confident,” junior second baseman Kylee Perez said. “There are obviously still things we need to work on.”
Nickles, a former Gatorade National Player of the Year, posted a .538 batting average and a 1.077 slugging percentage in her UCLA softball debut. Slugging two home runs and knocking in six, Nickles was key to UCLA’s high scoring weekend.
“She is filling shoes of Mysha Sataraka, senior All-American over at third base,” Inouye-Perez said. “I think she’s gonna come in and – minus the experience – her athleticism, she’s gonna do some great things.”
Inouye-Perez raved about Nickles before the season began, citing her athleticism and ability to be a five-tool player.
“It was really exciting, just watching UCLA throughout my high school career and finally being able to play with all the girls that I’ve watched on TV,” Nickles said.