UCLA softball celebrated seniors shortstop Delaney Spaulding, outfielder Gabrielle Maurice and pitcher Paige McDuffee this past weekend during senior weekend.
They did it both with a ceremony and with winning a pivotal series against Arizona, building on the successes of previous weeks and putting themselves in a better position for a higher postseason seed.
“Arizona being a good rival, being able to take two of three is a great memory for them to be able to go out (on),” said assistant coach Lisa Fernandez.
Now, after their celebratory banquet Sunday night, the team and its seniors shift their focus to next weekend’s series against Arizona State, their last of the regular season.
After checking in at No. 10 in the latest edition of the selection committee rankings, UCLA is projected to earn one of 16 seeds in the 64-team tournament.
Seeded teams host four-team regionals at their home stadiums. The winner of each regional advances to the Super Regional round, in which the eight highest-ranked surviving seeds host a best-of-three play-in series with a lower seed for a trip to the College World Series in Oklahoma City.
The Bruins’ 2017 senior class has been to the College World Series for two straight years.
Last year’s run was punctuated by a come-from-behind win in the Super Regional against Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.
The Bruins dropped the first game 8-1, but then came back to win games two and three, both by a score of 2-1. The second game of the series went into extra innings, with the Bruins triumphing on a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. Maurice kept the Bruins alive with a game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the seventh.
“This senior class (is) special,” Fernandez said. “Delaney, and Paige and Gabby, they’ve meant so much to this program, and they’ve done a lot for this program, and they’ve been able to accomplish a lot. So, it’s a great credit to them.”
Whether or not the seniors return to Oklahoma City this year and add to their athletic accomplishments, Fernandez praised the trio for their efforts in the classroom as well.
“I think probably more importantly, not just for what they do on the field, but really … all three of them are going to graduate,” Fernandez said. “So they’re going to walk away with even something more important, and that’s the degree from UCLA.”
The Bruins road to Oklahoma City continues through Tempe, Arizona, starting Thursday.