Rachel Garcia had not pitched for No. 4 UCLA softball for nine consecutive games, but the redshirt sophomore ace returned to the circle against No. 12 Arizona over the weekend.
For the Bruins, her presence was welcomed after senior Selina Ta’amilo pitched all but 4.2 innings in the previous series against Stanford.
“It’s great to have (Garcia) back in the lineup,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “She’d been out for three weeks and hadn’t been able to practice.”
The coaching staff took a cautious approach with the righty who, after nursing a sore arm, took the circle for the first time since March 24.
While Garcia was able to pitch all three games against the Wildcats, she did not start all weekend and was only brought in for situational purposes.
On Sunday, after Ta’amilo gave up a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the second, Garcia was called in to relieve the senior. She went on to pitch four innings, allowing just two base hits and striking out nine in her third consecutive relief appearance of the weekend.
With UCLA leading 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh, freshman Holly Azevedo replaced Garcia.
“We needed to pitch and use our entire staff to be able to get through the weekend,” Inouye-Perez said. “I definitely went with our other pitchers and brought (Garcia) in situationally.”
Overall Garcia pitched 11.1 innings, allowing eight hits, two runs and striking out twenty without giving up a walk.
Along with her pitching performance, Garcia dominated opposing pitchers, going nearly perfect inside the batter’s box over the series.
The pitcher and designated player went six-for-seven with seven RBIs, scoring four runs, drawing five walks and belting three home runs.
With a pivotal matchup looming against No. 1 Washington that could potentially decide the Pac-12 champion, UCLA appears to be at full strength.
“It’s going to be a good series, that’s for sure – I’m happy to have everyone back,” Garcia said. “This team is on a roll right now; we’re relaxed, we have a mission and we’re going for that.”
Along with the return of their dual-threat player, the Bruins welcomed back freshman shortstop Briana Perez, who missed the Stanford series, as well as Azevedo, who was limited to 4.2 innings of work against the Cardinal.
“(Garcia and Perez) are two of the main parts of our lineup, two very impactful players,” said senior second baseman Kylee Perez. “Getting them back is huge and it will definitely help us.”