Softball’s speed, aggressive base running helps lead it to success
Sophomore utility Kinsley Washington is 5-for-5 on stolen bases this year for UCLA softball. Washington said base running has been a key for the Bruins, as they have stolen 43 bases on 47 attempts this season. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin)
By Coral Smith
April 2, 2019 12:33 am
The Bruins are speeding through the first half of the season.
Sophomore utility Kinsley Washington said one of the main reasons No. 1 UCLA softball (32-1, 6-0 Pac-12) has seen so much success so far is because of its aggressive base running.
“Speed is a big aspect of our team, especially this year,” Washington said. “Because when you’re able to steal a base, you don’t have to force a batter to sac bunt and give up their at-bat, so just getting ahead and being able to have them move you is really important.”
The Bruins have stolen 43 bases on 47 attempts this season, good for being tied for second best in the Pac-12. Almost half of those have come from freshman utility Kelli Godin, who has stolen 18 bases in 20 attempts this season, ranking second in the conference.
“Her speed has been a serious, serious weapon for us,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “When we talk about a diamond in the rough, (Godin) is exactly that.”
In addition to Godin, UCLA has seen contributions from other players, including Washington and sophomore infielder Briana Perez. Neither has been caught stealing yet this season, as Perez has gone 13-for-13 and Washington 5-for-5.
The Bruins have been able to take advantage of this speed to win some of their close games. Most recently, UCLA was locked in a pitcher’s duel against California on Saturday night, and the difference in the game would end up being just one run, coming by way of Washington.
After singling to get on base, Washington stole second and then advanced to third base on a ground out. Without taking those extra bases, Washington would not have been in a position to score when Godin subsequently put the ball into play in the next at-bat, reaching on a throwing error.
“I just go for it if I feel good. If I think that I can beat out the catcher’s arm, I’ll just go,” Washington said. “It’s kind of a green light. I don’t really wait for a sign – it’s just instinct.”
Inouye-Perez said the team also knows aggressive base running puts pressure on its opponents, which can sometimes lead to mistakes that UCLA can take advantage of. Godin’s speed forced California’s infield to rush its throw to get the out, which could be partially responsible for the error that brought Washington on Saturday.
“The entire team is looking to be more aggressive, and when you do that, you can put pressure on the defense,” Inouye-Perez said. “I’m really proud of what we’re doing to put pressure on them and ultimately manufacture runs.”
While the Bruins have had success with the long ball and extra-base hits so far this season – already recording 32 home runs as a team – redshirt sophomore utility Aaliyah Jordan said when the team struggles to get the big hits, aggressive baserunning is key to converting hits into runs.
“I know that if they’re not in scoring position, they’ll steal a base or do something to get themselves in scoring positions, making me feel more confident that I can hit them in,” Jordan said. “Especially having speed, coming from even second base is really easy for our hitters.”
UCLA will continue to use its speed in games with a series against No. 17 Arizona State this weekend.