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Softball readies for series at home against Oregon State with guests in the stands

After a two-week COVID-19 pause and a road trip north, No. 2 UCLA is coming back home with people in the stands for the first time all season. (Ashley Kenney/Assistant Photo editor)

softball


Oregon State
Friday, 4 p.m.

Easton Stadium
UCLA Live Stream-3
Oregon State
Saturday, 11 a.m.

Easton Stadium
UCLA Live Stream-3
Oregon State
Sunday, noon

Easton Stadium
UCLA Live Stream-3

By Cassidy Hunt

April 16, 2021 11:46 a.m.

For the first time in over a year, the Bruins are playing in front of a home crowd.

No. 2 UCLA softball (22-2, 5-1 Pac-12) will meet Oregon State (15-17, 3-9) this weekend for its first home series since taking a two-week hiatus because of COVID-19 precautions. The Bruins – who are undefeated at Easton Stadium this season – will be among the first UCLA teams to host player families and guests in attendance in 2021.

“There’s nothing like playing back at Easton, especially since families are going to be in the stands,” said redshirt junior infielder Briana Perez. “We’re definitely ready for that home-field advantage, and it just feels good to be back in our locker room and on our field.”

Absent from UCLA’s lineup in its most recent series against No. 4 Oregon and possibly absent from its series against Oregon State is redshirt senior utility Bubba Nickles, who suffered an injury to her left wrist while diving for a ball during practice.

Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said the Olympian is under the care of the UCLA medical staff and her absence from the field is indefinite.

“(Nickles is) a resilient girl,” Inouye-Perez said. “It’s devastating for us to lose her right now, but we’re going to hope to have the opportunity to get her back again this season and hope that she can play in the Olympics. Right now, we’re just waiting to see how she has to recover, and we’ll see what the future is.”

Redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan has filled Nickles’ leadoff spot in the Bruins’ batting order, recording a hit in three out of the four games over the weekend – including her first home run of the season.

Inouye-Perez said Jordan has been dynamic as a leadoff hitter and she hopes to continue to have the redshirt junior start in the No. 1 spot during Nickles’ recovery.

“(Jordan brings) confidence to the team which is what a great leadoff does,” Inouye-Perez said. “(Jordan) has been able to not only find a way to get on but also, she’s hitting for power – she’s being Aaliyah Jordan. We (always) want to be able to have Aaliyah have as many at-bats as possible, and now she’s coming up in those big moments that are going to always be game-changing for this team.”

Oregon State has lost each of its last three series, winning only one of four games played in its most recent series against No. 6 Washington. The Beavers recorded two hits in their sole victory over the Huskies and recorded a season-low seven hits in the entirety of the four-game set.

Redshirt senior pitcher Rachel Garcia said rather than focusing on the Beavers’ record, she is focusing on returning to Easton Stadium and getting to work.

“I’m excited,” Garcia said. “I don’t think (about) emotions, I just think about the excitement of being able to come back home for the next few weekends.”

UCLA will meet Oregon State for the three-game set’s opener at 4 p.m. on Friday.

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Cassidy Hunt | Sports staff
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball and women's soccer beats. She was previously a reporter on the gymnastics, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball and women's soccer beats. She was previously a reporter on the gymnastics, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
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