Seasons are comprised of streaks, and UCLA softball is riding a season-long eight-game victory run.
Stanford (18-27, 1-17 Pac-12) joins Cal State Fullerton, California and Cal State Northridge as No. 12 UCLA’s (37-12, 11-7) latest victim after the Bruins swept the Cardinal in their weekend series in the Bay Area.
With only two more regular-season series left, the Bruins will hope to maintain their momentum into the postseason.
“We always try to peak at the end of the season – we’re trying to get on a roll right now, and it seems to be working,” said junior second baseman Kylee Perez. “It’s really our time to get going and get ready for the postseason.”
In game one, UCLA connected for 21 hits and a couple of Bruins enjoyed career offensive games. Perez tied UCLA’s record for hits in a game with five, junior first baseman Madeline Jelenicki tied her career high for RBIs in a game with five and redshirt freshman pitcher Rachel Garcia set personal bests with four hits and three RBIs.
“We had quality offensive moments and were able to put up big numbers,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
UCLA’s offense especially lit up in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Paige Halstead hit a deep home run over the right field wall, and a trio of doubles extended the lead to 6-0. The Cardinal responded by capitalizing on two defensive errors – cutting the deficit to 6-4.
Stanford attempted to power itself back with two home runs, but the Bruins’ 13 runs proved too much in the end.
Contrary to the game one blowout, game two came down to the wire. The Cardinal struck first blood with Whitney Burks’ RBI single, but defense became their bane. UCLA’s offense pounced on its Pac-12 foe’s six errors, scoring five runs as a result of the miscues.
Senior left fielder Gabrielle Maurice added a vital dimension to the attack with her base running, stealing two bases to bring her season total to a team-leading nine stolen bases.
After the fourth, the Bruins held a 4-1 lead, though the Cardinal trimmed the lead with a two-run single from leadoff Kylie Sorenson in the fifth.
Down by three in the final inning, Stanford powered a two-run home run, bringing UCLA’s lead down to one. Junior pitcher Selina Ta’amilo retired three straight batters however, ending the Cardinal’s final rally.
Game three appeared as a tight game too but resulted in a lopsided affair. After two innings, the game was knotted at 1-1, but the Bruins broke the game open with home runs from Jelenicki and senior shortstop Delaney Spaulding in the third and sixth innings.
After relieving junior Johanna Grauer in the second, Ta’amilo limited the Cardinal to three hits and tacked on a 12th win to her undefeated campaign.
“Our mentality as pitchers is attacking the strike zone, just hitting our spots, and make plays,” Ta’amilo said.
UCLA captured the series finale with an 8-1 victory, completing the sweep.
Next up, the Bruins will host the No. 3 Arizona Wildcats (46-5, 17-4) at home – showcasing one of the highest-profile rivalries in college softball. The series will get going Friday night at Easton Stadium.