Thursday, May 28

Softball ends season with multiple honors, highest win percentage since 2000

Freshman Aaliyah Jordan leads the Bruins in seven offensive categories in 2018 en route to what has been their best season since the turn of the century. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins leave the 2018 regular season with seven straight conference series wins and two losses in their last 20 games.

No. 2 UCLA softball (50-4, 20-4 Pac-12) produced its fifth 50-win season over the last 10 years. The Bruins’ win percentage stands at .926 this season – the highest it’s been on this side of the year 2000.

In the circle this season, UCLA had a team ERA of 1.74, including double-digit wins from three pitchers. Redshirt sophomore Rachel Garcia led the way with 21 wins and an ERA of 1.08, freshman Holly Azevedo collected 15 without suffering a loss and senior Selina Ta’amilo won an even 10 games. As a staff, the Bruin turned in 30 complete games and 16 of them resulted in shutouts.

The Bruins offensively had seven players hit over .300. They collectively hit .340, which led the Pac-12.

“I believe the best pitching is in the Pac-12, so our ability to continue to hit in the toughest conference has said a lot about who we are,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “There’s been 12 different Bruins who’ve hit game winners I have 13 different Bruins who’ve scored the winning run so it’s not about any one person.”

Redshirt freshman Aaliyah Jordan led the team in seven categories. She batted .444, hit 11 home runs, had 63 RBIs, 14 doubles and 123 total bases.

Her slugging percentage stands at .759 and she has an on base percentage of .497. Her batting average, hits and RBI numbers all topped the conference as well.

UCLA found eight of its players honored on the All-Pac-12 conference teams.

Jordan became the seventh Bruin in program history to win the Pac-12 Rookie of the Year Award, and Garcia was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year – the 15th UCLA player to receive the award.

Jordan and Garcia earned All-Pac-12 first team honors, along with senior second baseman Kylee Perez and freshman shortstop Briana Perez. Sophomore center fielder Bubba Nickles earned second team honors and senior utility Madeline Jelenicki earned third team honors.

This was the Perez sisters’ first ever season playing with one another on the same team.

[Related: Softball sisters look to play college game together for first time.]

“I can’t really put it into words, it’s so much fun,” Briana Perez said. “Sometimes when I would take the game too seriously, I’ll get hit on the head by a rock and I’d turn and see (Kylee Perez) throwing rocks at me out on the field.”

Because UCLA only took two out of three games last weekend against No. 6 Arizona State, No. 1 Oregon clinched the regular season Pac-12 title.

Despite coming up short on one of their goals, the Bruins said they saw the series as an opportunity to go up against a formidable pitcher in Giselle Juarez before regional play.

“Hats off to (Juarez because) she was a great pitcher,” said Jelenicki. “I think that was the best thing that could’ve happened before postseason was getting to see a pitcher with that caliber of pitches with those strengths. We’re always going to look to get better, but I’m proud of how we kept fighting.”

With a total of eight players receiving conference honors, scoring 353 runs and earning one of the best win percentages in program history, UCLA will enter the NCAA tournament as the third seed and will host Sacramento State on Friday at 8 p.m. at Easton Stadium in the Los Angeles regional.

Sports staff

Veal is currently a Sports staff writer for the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter for the softball, women's water polo, men's soccer and cross country beats.

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