The estimated crowd attendance for Tuesday night’s matchup against Cal State Northridge was 853, something that took the team by surprise for a midweek game.
“They completely change the atmosphere,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “They’re a huge part of UCLA tradition and culture. Hearing them playing the victory song, those things I and the team completely value.”
With all those fans and even the UCLA marching band in tow, the No. 3 Bruins (32-2, 7-2 Pac-12) went on to push their win streak to seven games with a 8-3 win over the Matadors (16-25, 1-2 Big West).
Freshman pitcher Holly Azevedo stepped inside the circle for her fourth consecutive start and left with her perfect record still intact. On three days rest, she pitched her seventh complete game of the season striking out five with two walks and two earned runs.
“I felt good out there,” Azevedo said. “(CSUN) is always a tough competition so I just tried to keep things simple and loose. It’s always nice to have that run support.”
On offense, the Bruins struck first with an RBI single from redshirt freshman outfielder Aaliyah Jordan in the first inning, but UCLA’s biggest offensive inning came in the third when five runs came across the plate.
Jordan hit a sacrifice fly to center to score junior outfielder Imani Johnson who pinch ran for freshmen infielder Briana Perez after she got hit by a pitch. Later in the inning, junior infielder Briana Tautalafua launched one over the fence in center field for her seventh home run of the season. The rally concluded with an RBI double from junior outfielder Zoe Shaw.
Jordan collected her 20th multi-hit game of the season with an opposite field home run in the fourth.
“I think last year really helped as far as looking at pitchers and their tendencies,” Jordan said. “So just using that to my advantage as well as being aggressive in each at bat and having confidence in myself.”
Azevedo shut down the Matadors’ offense in the first four innings. A double from infielder Savannah Horvath got CSUN on the board and an error yielded another run in the fifth inning.
In the final frame, a double from outfielder Kira Cauley drove in the third run for the Matadors before Azevedo retired her final batter.
The head coach for CSUN, Tairia Flowers, is an alumnus of UCLA. She played for the Bruins from 2000 to 2003 and the team reached the College World Series all for years of her tenure, including the 2003 NCAA championship team.
“She is definitely a big part of our history here,” Inouye-Perez said. “She’s done an outstanding job coaching, so any time you get a chance to play some Bruins, it’s a fun rivalry. Before the game there were hugs and afterwards we just wished each other well.”
With this break in between Pac-12 competition, Inouye-Perez said this game served as a mental challenge.
“Midweek games are always a good test especially coming off of a road trip,” Inouye-Perez said. “I’m proud of our ability to stay focused and be able to execute and get success throughout the lineup and that says a lot about this team’s depth and ability to compete.”
Pac-12 competition resumes Friday against Stanford at 7 p.m. at Easton Stadium.