Kelly Inouye-Perez entered the season needing 14 wins to reach 500 as head coach of UCLA softball.
The No. 3 Bruins returned to Westwood on Sunday afternoon with a perfect 15-0 record after sweeping the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic II.
Now in her 12th season, Inouye-Perez owns a record of 501-159-1 at UCLA since the beginning of the season.
“We bring in high-level, talented athletes and pair them with a staff that’s been in our program for a long period of time,” Inouye-Perez said. “(Everyone) is clear about where we are headed as a group and committed to be the best at whatever role is needed for the team. That’s the secret sauce to UCLA softball.”
Inouye-Perez has made it a habit of recruiting from the top level, consistently attracting highly touted players to Westwood and going on to coach 27 All-Americans and 76 All-Pac-10/12 members.
Senior shortstop Kylee Perez, an All-Pac 12 player, is happy to be a part of what she deems a “special group.”
“From top to bottom, we’re talented,” Perez said. “To be able to be a part of the group that won (Inouye-Perez’s) 500th win is the cherry on top.”
The Bruins have outscored their opponents 112-19, with six of their 15 wins coming via the mercy rule.
UCLA is now two wins from matching its highest win streak to start off a season since 2014, when the Bruins began the year 17-0 en route to a 52-8 regular season record.
This team is led by a stout lineup that ranks third nationally with a batting average of .395.
Seven batters have started all 15 games and all seven carry a batting average of at least .333, lead by redshirt freshman Aaliyah Jordan who is hitting .500 and slugging .947 for the year.
Duel threat player redshirt sophomore Rachel Garcia does it all for the Bruins, playing as the daily designated hitter batting .405 and driving in 10 RBI, while also anchoring a pitching staff that ranks 15th in earned run average, allowing 16 runs in 15 games.
Garcia has an ERA of 0.54, which ranks 25th nationally. In her 38.2 innings pitched, Garcia has a remarkable 68 strikeouts, 2nd in strikeouts per seven innings with 12.3 and 10th in the country overall.
Freshman pitcher Holly Azevedo has started five games in her career, keeping batters at bay with an earned run average of 0.66.
Seniors Johanna Grauer and Selina Ta’amilo round out the pitching staff for UCLA. Grauer has appeared in seven games and Ta’amilo is settling in after returning from offseason surgery.
In her season debut against Grand Canyon University on Feb. 19, Ta’amilo gave up three earned runs in 1.1 innings. She has since pitched eight scoreless innings, picking up her first two wins of the season over the weekend.
“There’s a mix of youth and experience, but there’s also a competitiveness within the team,” Inouye-Perez said. “We have great upperclassmen that are taking care of the younger Bruins and that’s creating a positive culture.”
A mercy rule victory over previously undefeated No. 7 LSU on Saturday was the talking point of the weekend, and Jordan acknowledges the team’s depth.
“We are very deep,” Jordan said. “We can have any person come off the bench and do whatever is needed to win.”
The Bruins are 15-0 to start off the first two weeks of the season but Jordan has one goal in mind.
“Win the natty,” she said.