The Bruins’ journey back to Oklahoma City began with an homage to last season.
Junior infielder Kinsley Washington and senior outfielder Jacqui Prober unveiled the addition of No. 4 UCLA softball’s (1-0) 12th NCAA championship banner in right field before Thursday’s first pitch.
“It was really special – I feel like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment,” said sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo. “There’s that super hyped-up feeling of actually winning the championship, and just to see it put on the wall is something completely different.”
The Bruins and Faraimo opened the 2020 season with a 14-0 mercy-rule shutout victory against CSU Bakersfield (0-1) in the first of six games of the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament with help from five new faces in the Bruins’ lineup – four of which made an impact in their first plate appearances.
“I think the best thing (about the season opener) is you get to see so many new faces,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “I think that part of it was a little bit of an unknown for us as well – you know we’ve practiced – but to see them do it in the game? … Outstanding.”
Redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan walked in the first inning, and freshman outfield Maya Brady drove her in with a line-drive double from the cleanup spot to put UCLA on the scoreboard.
The bottom of the second saw three more Bruins step to the plate for their first at-bats – junior infielder Delanie Wisz, freshman infielder Seneca Curo and Faraimo – who all got on base.
Following an RBI single to shallow left field from the 2019 Pac-12 batting average leader sophomore outfielder Kelli Godin, Washington knocked in three more runs with a bases-clearing triple over the head of the Roadrunners’ centerfielder.
In her second at-bat of the inning, Wisz capped UCLA’s eight-run frame with the first of her two home runs of the night. The two-run shot to left-center field gave the Bruins a 9-0 lead going into the third inning.
“We knew there was the potential for (Wisz) to do that,” Inouye-Perez said. “But for her to actually step in and do that in your debut, like two bombs, really? That’s like a dream come true for anybody, so it’s huge.”
During her time at Loyola Marymount before transferring, Wisz said she witnessed the tradition of assistant coach Kirk Walker tossing out Jolly Ranchers to hitters as they rounded third base after hitting a home run. Against the Roadrunners, Wisz snagged two of the candies.
“This has been my dream school since I started playing softball so to actually get to wear the Bruin uniform is awesome,” Wisz said. “As you round third, coach (Walker) throws a Jolly Rancher. Last year, I would see it from the stands, so getting to actually be in that was such a cool feeling.”
UCLA tacked on four more runs in the third inning behind a two-RBI triple from junior infielder Briana Perez and a solo home run from Brady – the first of her collegiate career.
In total, the three newcomers who started – Brady, Wisz and freshman catcher Alyssa Garcia – were a combined 6-for-9 with three home runs and four RBIs.
In the circle, Faraimo struck out the side in the top of the fourth and fifth innings, tying her career-high of 12 strikeouts on just 72 pitches for her first win of the season.
Faraimo – who pitched 114 innings last season but didn’t have a single at-bat – walked and grounded out to shortstop in the first two plate appearances of her UCLA career. Faraimo – who Inouye-Perez called “a beast on the mound” – said she was a bit timid in the batter’s box.
“I’ve never been that nervous in a long time,” Faraimo said. “I just wish I was faster, because when I hit the ball, I feel like if I was two steps faster, maybe it would have been a close play.”