After their second-to-last conference series, No. 1 UCLA softball remains atop the Pac-12.
The Bruins (48-3, 18-3 Pac-12) defeated the No. 24 Golden Bears (34-16, 7-13) by scores of 5-0, 2-1 and 10-5 over the weekend in Berkeley.
Following their tilt with California, UCLA and No. 2 Oregon (44-7, 18-3) remain tied in the standings, with a Pac-12 title within their reach.
So far this season, the Bruins have been able to win games thanks to the contributions of a number of players within their lineup, with players like redshirt freshman left fielder Aaliyah Jordan and redshirt sophomore pitcher Rachel Garcia leading the team in the batter’s box and in the circle, respectively. This week, however, it was senior utility player Madeline Jelenicki who lifted the team.
“Jelenicki came alive,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “She did an outstanding job coming through in those situations where we needed to punch back.”
UCLA has had 10 different batters drive in a game-winning run and 12 different players score the game-winning run this season according to Inouye-Perez.
On Saturday, with the score tied 1-1, two outs and a runner on third in the top of the seventh, Jelenicki singled in the series-clinching run. The next day, with the score tied 4-4 in the top of the fourth, she belted what would be the game-winning run, hitting a solo shot over the left field wall.
Jelenicki began the year outside the starting lineup, making her first start halfway through the season. Injuries to her teammates saw her playing time increase; Jelenicki has now made herself a vital component for the Bruins defensively and offensively.
Although she is batting .250 at the moment, Jelenicki has seen her average steadily increase throughout the past few weeks. Over the last two games of the series she went a combined 4-for-7 with 5 RBIs and two home runs. In the 18 games she has played, Jelenicki has yet to commit an error while playing a number of positions for the Bruins.
“Anyone can get it done,” said Jelenicki. “It’s a great feeling because you know anyone can step up and you have confidence with any single person that walks up to bat as well as the people on the bench; they can get it done as well.”
On Friday, freshman pitcher Holly Azevedo pitched a complete game, giving up five hits, one walk and striking out four in a 5-0 shutout victory over the Golden Bears.
Sophomore center fielder Bubba Nickles, freshman shortstop Briana Perez and Jordan all singled in runs for UCLA.
Garcia followed Azevedo’s pitching performance with a complete game of her own Saturday. In seven innings of work, Garcia gave up four hits and struck out 12 batters without giving up a walk or an earned run.
Cal scored on a throwing error by Perez. The freshman leads the team in errors with 11.
The Bruins closed out the series Sunday with the help of the long ball as Jelenicki, Jordan and junior third baseman Brianna Tautalafua all took turns rounding the bases.
Next up for UCLA is a visit from No. 8 Arizona State with the conference title up for grabs on the final weekend of regular season play.