The Bruins picked up right where they left off at the plate.
Last year, No. 1 UCLA softball (5-0) finished the season with the second-highest batting average in the NCAA at .335, and the Bruins’ bats didn’t slow down in their opening weekend at the Hawaii Paradise Classic.
The Bruins walked away with five victories, winning games by an average of 6.8 runs, capped by a runaway 13-1 mercy rule win in five innings against Saint Mary’s.
The Bruins have touted their depth this season as one of their strengths. Fourteen different players got a hit this weekend – 12 of whom were able to record an RBI.
“If you look at our run production, it’s coming not just from one or two people in the lineup, it’s coming from several people throughout the lineup,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “I was able to start a lineup and then bring people in, and it allows for there to be that anticipation of having to be ready when you’re given a chance to execute. … I think we did really well with players coming into the ball game.”
Junior centerfielder Bubba Nickles and sophomore shortstop Briana Perez are leading UCLA with batting averages of .533 and .588, respectively. The two had a combined 18 hits in the five games, four of which were for extra-bases, including Nickles’ two home runs.
“I have a little bit more experience and I’m a little more confident, and a lot of the girls on offense are the same way,” Nickles said. “Even some of the girls who don’t have as much experience at the collegiate level, they’re able to see how to play the game that way.”
Last year UCLA hit 68 home runs and through the first five games of this season, the Bruins already have seven. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Aaliyah Jordan led the team in home runs last year with 12 and despite still recovering from Tommy John surgery in the fall, hit two of this weekend.
“Nobody really knew that she took the fall off,” Inouye-Perez said. “But for her to come back from that, where game one wasn’t the best, but she got stronger and stronger over the weekend.”
The Bruins have also seen offensive power from their freshmen. Freshman catcher Colleen Sullivan had a double and a solo home run this weekend and freshman third baseman Kelli Godin went 3-7 on the weekend, scoring five times.
Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Rachel Garcia said pitchers also feel the benefit of the overpowering offense.
“I’d definitely say it’s a stress reliever, in a way, knowing that you have so much insurance behind you and that you’re able to focus on just one batter at a time,” Garcia said.
Garcia pulls double-time for the Bruins and contributed both to the offense last season, with a .339 batting average and 11 home runs and lead the pitching staff.
UCLA and its offense will play its first home games of the season this weekend at the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament.