UCLA Athletics had a big weekend.
Football fans got a glimpse of next year’s squad in the spring game, baseball outscored crosstown rival USC 42-6 in a three-game sweep and gymnastics brought national championship No. 115 to Westwood.
UCLA softball capped off the prolific weekend when the No. 3 Bruins (40-3, 15-3 Pac-12) won their fifth consecutive conference series in a sweep against No. 1 Washington (41-5, 12-5).
Both sides called upon their best arms for the top-three matchup.
“I think (the pitching staff) did an excellent job this weekend,” said senior pitcher Selina Ta’amilo. “(Redshirt sophomore) Rachel (Garcia) is phenomenal and our goal as a pitching staff is to get everyone in. We definitely tried to set the tone early and overall it was just a great weekend for our staff.”
In game one, the fans in attendance saw a pitcher’s duel between Garcia and Washington pitcher Taran Alvelo. Alvelo came into this weekend leading the conference in wins with 21. It was Garcia, though, who came out on top as she pitched her sixth complete game shutout of the year in a 3-0 win. In her seven innings of work she struck out 10 and only allowed three hits and a walk.
Freshman pitcher Holly Azevedo took the circle in game two and lasted 2 2/3 innings. Garcia pitched in relief the rest of the way with 4 1/3 shutout innings to move to 15-1 on the season.
Ta’amilo received the ball against Alvelo in the finale of the series and turned in 5 1/3 innings of shutout pitching with four strikeouts. Garcia served as the relief pitcher once more and sealed the 1-0 win with 1 2/3 shutout innings.
“There’s so much outside noise about our batting averages, but at the end of the day, what wins championships is pitching and defense,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “Washington is a very offensive team and they’ll take advantage of opportunities but it’s the defense that was unique and we haven’t had a lot of games this year decided by defense.”
The Bruins only committed one error, occurring in the fourth inning of Sunday’s contest. The Huskies also came into the finale without making an error, but suffered two Sunday. Fortunately for them, the Bruins couldn’t take advantage of either error and the Huskies kept the UCLA from scoring off them.
On offense, redshirt freshman Aaliyah Jordan continued to drive in runs throughout the weekend.
On Friday, she hit her eighth home run of the year to force a tie for the team lead. On Saturday, she claimed the top spot on a home run that would’ve landed on Sunset Boulevard had the trees in right field not have been in the way.
“(Alvelo) is a very good pitcher and coming in we knew that her strength pitches were were rising fastball, curveball and change up,” Jordan said. “I was expecting inside because that’s what she was throwing me (on Friday’s game) so I just tried to sit on her rising fastball and drive it.”
Two home runs Saturday provided the offense for the Bruins – Jordan’s and senior right fielder Madeline Jelenicki’s. With two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jelenicki sent a towering shot over the left field wall for a walk-off 3-2 win.
In the 1-0 win Sunday, sophomore center fielder Bubba Nickles drove in the only run of the game with a poke to right that scored pinch runner sophomore Jenna Crawford.
“This weekend I saw us do well in all parts of our game,” Inouye-Perez said. “On Friday, (Garcia) pitched well and we hit. On Saturday, it’s nice to be able to come from behind and have a walk-off win, and Sunday was about defense. I was proud of our defense’s ability to have (Ta’amilo’s) back, which allows us to stay in the ballgame long enough to scrap out a run.”