Softball bounces back from first season loss with 4 wins at San Diego Classic
Freshman pitcher Lexi Sosa, a San Diego native, pitched seven shutout innings across two starts in the San Diego Classic for No. 1 UCLA softball, including a five-inning mercy rule victory over Mount St. Mary’s on Friday. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin)
|No. 1 UCLA||4|
March 1, 2020 11:02 p.m.
It took just a day for the Bruins to return to their winning ways.
No. 1 UCLA softball (19-1) swept all four of its games at the San Diego Classic this weekend after losing its first game of the season Thursday. Junior infielder Briana Perez drove in nine of the Bruins’ 29 runs for the weekend, while freshman pitcher and San Diego native Lexi Sosa tossed seven shutout innings in two starts.
“It was a great opportunity for (Sosa) to have her hometown and family see her for the first time in a UCLA uniform,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “There were a lot of expectations and a lot of potential distractions, and for her to be able to lock on and pitch effectively was a great sign of things to come.”
UCLA kicked off the weekend with a 10-0 victory over Mount St. Mary’s (0-13) in five innings behind Sosa’s first career complete game. Sosa allowed just three hits and struck out a career-high five batters.
“I feel awesome about my performance,” Sosa said. “And it’s always awesome to see my family in the background. It was definitely one of my favorite tournaments so far.”
Another San Diego native also came through for the Bruins on offense, as freshman catcher Sara Rusconi Vicinanza made her fourth appearance of the year and hit a three-run home run that put UCLA up 8-0 in the fourth.
While the Bruins ended Friday’s game early, their games against Weber State (7-13) and San Diego State (14-8) on Saturday were neck and neck and featured seventh-inning rallies by UCLA.
The Bruins found themselves in an early 5-1 deficit after the Wildcats rattled off six straight hits in the first, leading Inouye-Perez to pull junior starting pitcher Holly Azevedo from the game with zero outs recorded.
Sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo came in and struck out the side to limit the damage, the first three of her 24 strikeouts on the day. Faraimo would go on to allow just one hit across seven shutout innings against the Wildcats and earn her Pac-12-leading 10th win.
UCLA responded to Weber State’s rally with four runs in the third, capped off by a two-run Perez single that gave the Bruins a 6-5 lead.
Neither team scored again until the seventh, when UCLA strung together another four runs to secure the victory, including Perez’s fourth RBI of the game on a double to left-center. Perez scored the Bruins’ 10th run of the game on a single from redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan.
Perez had another clutch hit in the Bruins’ second game of the day against the Aztecs, which remained scoreless through the first six innings. With two outs and runners at second and third in the top of the seventh, Perez stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run single to break the tie.
“I was just trying to slow the game down,” Perez said. “I have to give credit to (Jordan) behind me, giving me the confidence to go up there right when I needed it … and I couldn’t have had those RBIs without my teammates getting on base.”
On the mound, Azevedo started her second straight game for the Bruins and bounced back with 3 1/3 innings of one-hit ball. Faraimo took over in the fourth and threw another 3 2/3 shutout innings in relief, striking out nine.
UCLA capped off the tournament with a 4-0 win over San Diego (10-11) on Sunday. Perez again drove in the first runs of the game for the Bruins, scoring a pair with a third-inning double.
Overall, Perez batted .615 on the weekend, including .833 with runners in scoring position. She notched three multihit games and reached base 11 times in 17 plate appearances.
“I believe (Perez) is the most underrated player in the country,” Inouye-Perez said. “She’s probably the most athletic Bruin we’ve had … but what I’ve seen from Perez in 2020 is separate from just finding ways to get on base. She’s coming through in the clutch.”
Sosa threw two scoreless frames against San Diego before handing the ball to junior outfielder Julie Rodriguez, making her pitching debut for UCLA. Rodriguez and Azevedo combined to keep the Toreros off the board in the last five innings for the Bruins’ third shutout of the weekend.
UCLA will next play Tuesday at home against St. John’s (7-13), a team that also played in the San Diego Classic and went 3-2 in its five games, losing to San Diego State and San Diego.
Tuesday’s game will be the first time the Bruins and Red Storm have faced off since 2005. However, Inouye-Perez said that won’t change UCLA’s approach to the game.
“Every game is a big game for us,” Inouye-Perez said. “This last weekend, there weren’t really big-name teams but there were some close ball games. We’ve just got show up and we’ve got to compete.”