This post was updated Feb. 24 at 1:03 p.m.
Sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo had the ball in her hands for 25 innings over the course of three days.
No. 1 UCLA softball (15-0) swept four opponents at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, coming out of the tournament undefeated for the third straight year. Faraimo pitched in the Bruins’ first three games, earning three wins, and made a fourth appearance in an exhibition game against the USA Olympic softball team.
According to Faraimo, fatigue was never a factor.
“I think it’s all a mentality,” Faraimo said. “I talk to (assistant coach Lisa Fernandez) about this – the number of innings I can go is limitless, and I can throw eight days a week. It’s just a matter of being able to power through it and finding that strength in yourself.”
UCLA kicked off the tournament Friday with a 9-1 victory over Texas A&M (11-5) in six innings, backed by Faraimo’s seventh straight complete game. Faraimo tallied 10 strikeouts and allowed just three hits, retiring her final 10 batters.
The Bruins got out to a six-run lead early in the game behind two-run home runs from redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan, junior infielder Delanie Wisz and graduate catcher/utility Jenavee Peres. Jordan followed up her first home run of the year with her conference-leading eighth double off the left field wall in the bottom of sixth, bringing in two more runs and invoking the mercy rule.
While Friday’s win marked the seventh time this season the Bruins have left the field early, UCLA’s matchup against Wisconsin (7-6) on Saturday entered into unfamiliar territory: extra innings.
The Bruins struggled to score against Badger pitcher Haley Hestekin, tallying just one run on five hits through the first seven innings.
With the score still knotted at one in the bottom of the eighth, Peres stepped to the plate and ended the game with one swing of the bat, launching her second home run of the weekend over the left field wall to give UCLA the 3-1 victory.
“It felt really good because we’ve been talking about coming through for our team and being productive in any way that we can,” Peres said. “I’m just so glad that, in the end, I had my team’s back and could bring it home in extras.”
The Bruins stayed in the game up to that point with the help of Faraimo, who threw seven shutout innings in relief after coach Kelly Inouye-Perez pulled freshman starting pitcher Lexi Sosa from the game. Faraimo allowed just two hits and struck out a career-high 16 batters, including eight in a row during the sixth through eighth innings.
UCLA again went to extra innings against No. 9 Florida (16-2) in part two of Saturday’s doubleheader, and Faraimo again served as the Bruins’ primary pitcher en route to a 5-4 victory.
After junior pitcher Holly Azevedo gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings, Faraimo took over in relief and tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Faraimo also struck out 10 to notch her third double-digit strikeout performance of the weekend.
The Bruins kept Faraimo from having to pitch the ninth thanks to another eighth-inning rally – with runners at the corners, a wild pitch by the Gators allowed sophomore infielder Anna Vines to come home with the winning run.
Overall, Faraimo allowed just two earned runs in 19 2/3 innings of work on Friday and Saturday and added three wins to improve her Pac-12-best record to 9-0. Faraimo’s 36 strikeouts in the tournament put her at 94 strikeouts on the season – the most in the conference.
“I think (Faraimo) is just really well conditioned,” Inouye-Perez said. “She’s an athlete that works extra hard for those moments, … I didn’t want to have to ride her so soon, but she got an opportunity and we’re fortunate that she’s put in the extra cardio.”
Faraimo finally took a break during the Bruins’ final game of the tournament Sunday, as UCLA beat Auburn (9-7) by a score of 11-1 in five innings behind another two-run double from Jordan and freshman outfielder Maya Brady’s sixth home run of the year. Azevedo pitched from start to finish and allowed one earned run to win her fifth game of the season.
After a one-game rest, Faraimo returned to the mound for UCLA’s exhibition game against the USA Olympic softball team, going to head-to-head with former Bruin pitcher Ally Carda. Faraimo made it through 5 1/3 innings before getting pulled from a game for the first time this year, having allowed five runs and 10 hits.
Although UCLA ended up losing 9-3, Faraimo said it was still fun to square off against Team USA, which also includes a pair of Bruins from last season’s roster in Bubba Nickles and Rachel Garcia.
“That was so awesome – I had so much fun seeing the girls again,” Faraimo said. “It was just a really cool experience to go against literally the best in the world, and I feel really honored to be able to pitch against them.”