The Bruins started their season with a bang.
UCLA softball (5-0), which is ranked No. 1 according to ESPN, defeated all five of its opponents at the Hawaii Paradise Classic this weekend.
“We’re all so strong, … and we’ve been practicing every day,” said junior utility Bubba Nickles. “I think it’s just a reflection of just how hard we’ve been working.”
Nickles hit a solo home run and an RBI single to drive in both of the Bruins’ runs in its 2-1 win over UT Arlington on Thursday. Freshman right-hander Megan Faraimo got the win in her collegiate debut, collecting six strikeouts in her 5 1/3 innings of work and giving up just one run on two hits.
“(Faraimo) handled it outstanding. She has great presence,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “She’s been in pressure situations and she thrives in it.”
This would prove to be the closest contest of the weekend for UCLA, as the other four games were all won by at least six runs.
A six-run second inning for the Bruins was the decider in game two of Thursday’s doubleheader, as UCLA beat Fresno State 8-2 behind 12 hits and a complete game by sophomore right-hander Holly Azevedo, who gave up only three hits and tied her career-high with seven strikeouts.
Nickles and sophomore shortstop Briana Perez collected two hits each in each of the two Thursday games, combining to record 18 hits over the weekend. This included two home runs from Nickles, and 15 runs scored and 11 RBIs between the two.
“(Nickles) and (Perez) were by far the most consistent and productive in the lineup this weekend,” Inouye-Perez said.
Redshirt junior pitcher Rachel Garcia overpowered Hawai’i’s batters Friday to lead the Bruins to a 7-0 victory. The reigning USA Softball National Player of the Year gave up just one hit and one walk while collecting 15 strikeouts in the shutout, including seven straight early in the game.
“It really just started in the bullpen,” Garcia said. “And (freshman catcher Colleen Sullivan) was just picking pitches that worked really well for me.”
UCLA finished the weekend with mercy-rule victories in both Saturday games, taking down Georgia State 9-1 in six innings and Saint Mary’s 13-1 in five. Between the two games, the Bruins collected 25 hits from 12 different players, compared to five total hits from their opponents.
The Bruin pitchers combined for a 1.09 ERA over the five games, giving up a total of five runs and 12 hits over 32 innings while recording 46 strikeouts – an average of 9.2 per game.
The Bruins will compete at home next weekend as they host the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament, starting with games against Cal Poly and Boise State on Friday.