Softball finds success with strong offensive, pitching performances
Redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan has the second-highest batting average in the Pac-12 at .577, while No. 2 UCLA softball’s team batting average sits at .406. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin)
Feb. 19, 2020 11:40 p.m.
For redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan, the ball looked more like a “balloon” this weekend.
“I was just seeing the ball really well,” Jordan said. “I was seeing it well even during warmups.”
No. 2 UCLA softball’s (11-0) lineup has seen success at the plate since the start of the season, leading the Pac-12 in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits, doubles and home runs.
Led by Jordan, the Bruins continued their scoring display in a five-game sweep at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational over the weekend, bringing across 42 runs and tallying 56 hits in 30 innings of offense.
The most explosive performance of the weekend came against USF on Sunday, when UCLA poured in nine runs in the sixth inning en route to a 15-2 victory. It was only the Bruins’ second-highest scoring inning of the year – UCLA scored 13 runs in the first inning against Pittsburgh the weekend prior.
With UCLA having faced three top-20 teams – No. 9 Alabama, No. 15 Georgia and No. 5 Florida State – Jordan said the high level of competition at the tournament provided all the motivation the Bruins needed.
“I think coming into this, we wanted to prove not only to the world but to ourselves who we were, knowing that we were playing some good competition this week,” Jordan said. “It meant a lot to come out firing.”
The Bruins batted .389 in the five games, which lowered their season batting average to .406. UCLA’s starting lineup includes five players batting above .400, led by Jordan, whose .577 batting average is the second-highest mark in the Pac-12.
Jordan has also had success when not swinging the bat – her 11 walks lead the conference and her .711 on-base percentage is nearly 80 points higher than the next closest hitter in the Pac-12. In 20 plate appearances this weekend, Jordan reached base 13 times, including four times in a row against USF.
“We all expect it from (Jordan) and that’s most impressive,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “It’s not easy to do, especially when you have people expecting you to do it. But Aaliyah Jordan is, I believe, the best hitter in the country.”
The Bruins’ conference-leading .490 on-base percentage has helped set the table for their power hitters, who have led UCLA to a Pac-12-best 17 home runs. Freshman infielder Maya Brady hit her first career grand slam in the win against USF, bringing her conference-leading home run total to five.
While the Bruin offense scored at least seven runs in each of the first four games this weekend, UCLA slowed down in its final matchup against Florida State. Coming off their 15-run performance, the Bruins managed just one run through the first six innings against the Seminoles.
But when the bats cooled off, UCLA turned to its pitching staff. Sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo allowed just one earned run in seven innings while striking out 13 against Florida State, her third complete game of the weekend.
“I feel like it’s an equal share among our pitching staff,” Faraimo said. “I’m thankful to have them support me and that we work so well together. … My team is always going to have my back, and I just want to have theirs.”
With the Bruins trailing 2-1 in the top of the seventh, it was Jordan who came through with one last hit – a two-run double to give UCLA the lead and its 11th straight win.
“I love this team,” Inouye-Perez said. “I love their fight. The younger kids, the veterans, … just so many great moments that build a lot of confidence for figuring out who we are in 2020.”