In the early stages of the season, the Bruins tend not to lose.
No. 1 UCLA softball (15-0) has gone undefeated through the first three weeks of the season for the third straight year, most recently winning all four of its games at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
The Bruins started the 2019 and 2018 seasons with 16-game and 25-game win streaks, respectively. This year, UCLA and No. 17 Oregon are the only two remaining teams in the country that have yet to lose a game.
However, sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo said she has not kept track of wins and losses.
“I didn’t even realize that we were undefeated,” Faraimo said. “I think I saw some tweet about it. We only focus on getting better every game and know that the real competition is ourselves.”
While the Bruins’ win streak may not have crossed Faraimo’s mind, the NCAA has taken notice. After being ranked No. 4 in the preseason, UCLA vaulted back up to No. 1 about a week ago, where the Bruins have remained ever since.
UCLA has defended its top spot by defeating a group of nationally ranked teams over the past two weeks: No. 13 Alabama (9-5), No. 18 Georgia (14-3), No. 8 Florida State (7-4) and No. 9 Florida (16-2).
In their game against the Seminoles on Feb. 16, the Bruins found themselves one out away from their first loss of the season, trailing 2-1 in the top of the seventh. With two on and two out, redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan came through with a two-run double to put UCLA up 3-2 and keep the streak alive.
UCLA played another tight game against a Florida team this weekend, going to extra innings with the Gators on Saturday. The Bruins managed to score the winning run after a single by catcher Alyssa Garcia and a wild pitch by Florida pitcher Rylee Trlicek brought around sophomore infielder Anna Vines.
“That’s what I was hoping for – to have those types of adversity moments to see how the team responds,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “Our team has just been relentless. There’s a really big ‘refuse to lose’ mentality.”
Aside from games against Florida teams, UCLA’s closest encounter with the loss column came against Wisconsin on Saturday. The Bruins trailed 1-0 until they tied it in the fifth, and a walk-off home run from graduate catcher/utility Jenavee Peres sealed the game in the eighth.
However, like Faraimo, Peres said wins are secondary in importance at this point in the season.
“I think we’re still in that stage where we’re learning about each other and focusing on our game,” Peres said. “I’m glad that we’ve come out on top, but that’s not really the main focus that we’ve had. The wins are just a bonus.”
That win streak will be tested this week, as UCLA will face its highest-ranked opponent of the season, hosting No. 4 Texas on Thursday.
And while Faraimo and Peres said wins are not the priority right now, Inouye-Perez said the Bruins are still very aware of their undefeated record.
“Let’s be clear: This team does not want to lose,” Inouye-Perez said. “Right now, we’re just getting the opportunity to be the last team standing. We truly believe that, if you give us one pitch, we can beat anybody in the country.”