No. 1 UCLA softball shuts out Fresno State in home opener
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo pitched six shutout innings to go along with 13 strikeouts, earning her team the victory in No. 1 UCLA softball’s season-opening win. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin)
|No. 1 UCLA||7|
By Coral Smith
Feb. 13, 2021 3:13 p.m.
This post was updated Feb. 15 at 6:42 p.m.
The Bruins wasted no time picking up where they left off last season.
No. 1 UCLA softball (1-0) used a quick start to take down Fresno State (0-1) 7-0 on Friday afternoon to kick off the 2021 season. It is the third straight year the Bruins shut out their opponent in their home opener.
After redshirt sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo struck out the side in the top of the first inning, UCLA came to the plate and scored four runs before Fresno State could record an out. The Bulldogs were forced to bring in a relief pitcher at that point, but the Bruins scored two more runs and batted around before the inning ended.
“It shows what we’ve always believed we’re capable of doing,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “You got to see a lot of who we are in that first inning.”
Redshirt senior utility Bubba Nickles opened the inning by sending a home run over the scoreboard in left field, and two at-bats later, redshirt senior pitcher/first baseman Rachel Garcia hit the same spot with a home run of her own.
Both Nickles and Garcia sat out of the abridged 2020 season to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics with Team USA, but after the games’ postponement, both decided to return to UCLA this year.
“It was great. Just coming out with my team for the first time in so long was just amazing,” Nickles said. “We just wanted to come out strong like always, and it was really just awesome that I was able to be the leadoff for the team again.”
After ending 2020 on a 25 2/3 inning scoreless streak, Faraimo continued her success in the circle, pitching six shutout innings with 13 strikeouts to collect the win.
The most trouble Faraimo had on the mound was in the second inning when a hit-by-pitch and a walk put two runners on with two outs, but a swinging strikeout neutralized the threat. Faraimo allowed no other base runners until the sixth inning when a pop fly to shallow right field dropped in to break up her no-hit bid.
“Every time I realize I’m throwing a no-hitter, I won’t say anything, but the very next inning something happens,” Faraimo said. “So I kind of knew it was going to happen, but it’s all good.”
After UCLA’s six-run rally to start the game, the bats cooled off, as the Bruins scored only one more run the rest of the game on an RBI ground out from Nickles in the third inning.
“I think the pitcher was starting to find herself a little bit,” Nickles said. “I definitely think that we just need to make adjustments a little sooner.”
UCLA had some notable players missing from its lineup, as redshirt freshman utility Maya Brady and redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan, both of whom started every game in 2020, were unavailable for Friday’s contest. Inouye-Perez said it says a lot about the team that they were able to adjust to a different lineup and still come out on top.
“We’re prepared to deal with whatever we have at a given moment, and what we had today was what we went with,” Inouye-Perez said. “There’s definitely some people that will add to the lineup, and the good thing is we got to show today that we can get the (win) with our depth.”
While UCLA was scheduled to continue its home stand versus Cal Poly on Saturday, both games were canceled. The Bruins’ next games will be a doubleheader at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 20.