Softball prepares for upcoming high-stakes tournament in Judi Garman Classic
Senior infielder Brianna Tautalafua is hitting .179 on the year after recording three hits this past weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Tautalafua also notched six RBIs on the weekend. (Mia Kayser/Daily Bruin staff)
By Ty Davidian
Feb. 27, 2019 12:28 a.m.
The Bruins have a lot at stake this weekend.
No. 2 UCLA softball (14-0) will head to Fullerton, California, this week for the Judi Garman Classic, playing No. 3 Florida (18-0) twice before facing a myriad of other traveling teams – Michigan (6-8), No. 21 Auburn (13-3), Loyola Marymount (7-5) and Connecticut (3-9).
UCLA’s last and only meeting against Florida in 2018 came at the NCAA Women’s College World Series. Senior catcher Taylor Pack hit a three-RBI home run in the fourth inning to complete a four-run comeback and give redshirt junior pitcher Rachel Garcia her 29th win of the season.
The Bruins went on to lose two consecutive games against the Florida State Seminoles, ending their 2018 campaign with a record of 58-7.
Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said that both games against Florida will reflect the squad’s current strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get some competition against opponents who I think are really going to challenge us,” Inouye-Perez said. “We’re going to focus on what makes us successful. … (Florida is) a very strong team both offensively and defensively, so I look forward to being able to compete against them.”
Senior infielder Brianna Tautalafua touched further on the upcoming tournament, saying that her teammates’ confidence and camaraderie increase the team’s adaptability against other top-ranked programs.
“It’s going to be a good opportunity to see how well we compete with a team like Florida from the East Coast,” Tautalafua said. “There’s a lot of stuff we can work on as a team, so I think all around, there’s a little bit of something in every aspect of the game that we can work on.”
UCLA is coming off of their third consecutive undefeated weekend, bookending last week’s Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic with wins over Oklahoma and Colorado State courtesy of their starting pitchers.
UCLA’s high-swinging bats against Missouri, Nebraska and Kentucky also led to three mercy-rule victories with a combined total of 32 runs in less than 24 hours.
Freshman pitcher and 2018 Gatorade California Player of the Year Megan Faraimo fanned nine batters in her second collegiate no-hitter against Colorado State. Faraimo fell just short of a perfect game on account of two team errors and a hit player.
Faraimo said that the Bruins’ routine of keeping things simple is essential to having fun and continuing their winning streak in Fullerton.
“I think for any opponent, we just have to focus on our side of the ballgame and focus on what we’re doing,” Faraimo said. “It would be huge to come out on top against Florida, but I think if we stay focused on what we’re doing, we’ll be okay.”
Of the five opponents this weekend, UCLA has only played against Loyola Marymount this season, beating the Lions 3-1 to close out the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament on Feb. 17.
Inouye-Perez added that she was pleased with her squad’s aggression and how new competitors will help the players develop into a championship-caliber team.
“I mean, once again, we’re not playing against the opponent; we’re competing against ourselves,” Inouye-Perez said. “We have speed, we have power, we have an aggressive approach, so we’re here to manufacture runs.”
The Bruins will kick off the tournament with their first matchup against the Gators on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.