No. 10 UCLA softball opened up Pac-12 play by losing its first three games to No. 20 Utah.
“What I walk away with is, losing is not something we are going to be satisfied with,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
The Utes (21-4, 3-0 Pac-12) beat the Bruins (21-8, 0-3) by scores of 2-1, 7-2 and 4-0 over the weekend series. Utah’s pitching duo of Katie Donovan and Miranda Viramontes kept the UCLA offense in check all weekend long.
“They kept the ball down and in the zone and they had a good off speed,” said junior right fielder Madeline Jelenicki. “They were pretty much the same type of pitcher.”
Viramontes fired a complete game and only gave up one run Friday before Donovan came up with a complete game of her own Saturday, surrendering only two runs. Viramontes and Donovan combined to throw a shutout on Sunday.
“The first weekend we played was unconscious softball,” Perez said. “In this weekend’s games we have learned that when we press, we are not as successful.”
Jelenicki said the Bruins have a conference bye week next weekend, giving them more time to practice and implement changes, such as improving situational hitting.
“We would rather these losses never happen, but we would rather have it happen earlier on in the season,” Jelenicki said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Rachel Garcia pitched in all three games over the weekend. The redshirt freshman said that the Utes hit her screwball more in Saturday’s game than they did in Friday’s game, prompting her to adjust by throwing less screw balls in Sunday’s game.
“The pitching staff knows that Rachel can go in at any time,” Inouye-Perez said. “Literally any time. And I showed that; I proved that.”
Inouye-Perez said she was looking to other options in the circle, such as redshirt freshman Bubba Nickles.
“Bubba was ready to go this weekend, and she is a freshman that I am going to start activating in the circle,” Inouye-Perez said. “Defense wins championships, so I have to figure out our best defense that can make adjustments to beat the shift.”
After Sunday’s game, Inouye-Perez shared a personal anecdote from her playing days at UCLA with her current team.
“In 2004, we lost the first six games, we got swept twice,” Inouye-Perez said. And that’s happened, and we won a championship in that year.”
Up next, UCLA will face No. 25 BYU in two games Saturday.