Softball to bat for Pac-12 title and say goodbye to seniors in final season series
Senior catcher Taylor Pack will be honored for Senior Day this weekend when UCLA softball takes on Arizona at home. Pack was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team for the first time. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin)
By Marcus Veal
May 8, 2019 11:23 p.m.
The last regular season series brings postseason implications as well as goodbyes for the Bruins.
No. 3 UCLA softball (45-3, 19-2 Pac-12) has a chance to claim the conference title against No. 6 Arizona (40-11, 17-4) this weekend – something it hasn’t done since 2009.
“One of our goals before the season was to win a Pac-12 title, and here we are,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “I think it’s a great way to finish (conference play) to play a high-level opponent, but it’s not really about the opponent. We have to finish strong and put ourselves in a position to be able to get ready for the postseason.”
The Bruins came out on top in all five of their matchups last year against the Wildcats.
UCLA swept Arizona in its regular season meeting in Tucson, Arizona. The two teams met again in the NCAA Super Regionals with a spot in the Women’s College World Series on the line. The Bruins beat the Wildcats 7-1 and then 3-2 to advance to their fourth straight World Series appearance.
This year, Arizona leads the Pac-12 in home runs with 92 and its 332 RBIs is tied for the best with Arizona State (30-18, 10-11). It also has the individual home run leader, Jessie Harper, who has 23 deep flies on the year.
Freshman pitcher Megan Faraimo – who was just named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and received All-Pac-12 First Team honors – said she understands what is at stake this weekend and is excited to get the job done.
“I totally respect their sticks, I know they’re a really strong hitting team,” Faraimo said. “I think if I just hit my spots and work well with my catcher, we’ll find success.”
The last home series of the regular season also means that it’s that time of year when UCLA honors its graduating seniors.
This year, there are seven seniors that will be recognized – utility Zoe Shaw, catchers Paige Halstead and Maddie Skibitzki, infielders Brianna Tautalafua and Taylor Pack, and outfielders Danae Blodgett and Stevie Wisz.
Pack was also named to the All-Pac-12 First Team for the first time in her career. She is batting .392 with nine homers – both career highs – and her .725 slugging percentage is the team’s best.
This senior class has been to the Women’s College World Series three consecutive times, and Pack said this is by far the best team of her four years donning blue and gold.
“This season has gone really well – we’ve had a couple downs but it’s mainly been uphill,” Pack said. “In these past four years, I think that this is really our best shot to win and our team has really meshed well and everything is coming together for us at the right times, so I think we’re going to have a really great end of the season.”
A sweep or a series win by UCLA means it wins the Pac-12 for the 10th time in program history. The Bruins have either swept or won two out of three against every one of their conference opponents.
“To be in a position to win the Pac-12 title is a benefit and a bonus for the players to be recognized for everything they’ve done this year,” Inouye-Perez said. “We love and respect our Pac-12 and believe there is no better conference in the country, but for us the bigger picture is to be national champions.”