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No. 2 UCLA softball expects fierce competition in matchup against No. 8 Arizona

Redshirt freshman utility Maya Brady is one of 10 players on UCLA softball who has started at least half of the games this season and has a batting average above .300. Brady is hitting .333 in 36 games with the Bruins this season. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin)

Softball


No. 8 Arizona
Thursday, 7 p.m.

Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium
Pac-12 Networks
No. 8 Arizona
Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium
Pac-12 Networks
No. 8 Arizona
Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium
ESPNU
No. 8 Arizona
Saturday, 1 p.m.

Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium
Pac-12 Networks

By Coral Smith

May 13, 2021 12:41 p.m.

For their final series of the regular season, the Bruins will be facing a familiar foe on the road.

No. 2 UCLA softball (38-3, 16-2 Pac-12) will travel to take on No. 8 Arizona (35-10, 12-7) for the team’s last four-game set, after which the Bruins will open their postseason campaign.

“I think our team is really peaking at the right point in the season, now that we’re kind of starting to get into the postseason,” said redshirt freshman utility Maya Brady. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work, so I think it’s just starting to pay off.”

The two teams have a long and storied history, which coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said means the series will be competitive, even if it weren’t a top-10 matchup.

The last time the teams faced off in 2019, the Wildcats handed the Bruins their only series loss in the last week of the regular season, but UCLA got its payback by defeating Arizona in the Women’s College World Series 6-2.

And even further back, the conference foes have faced off in the championship game of the WCWS six times, most recently in 2010 when the Bruins defeated the Wildcats for UCLA’s 11th title and its first under Inouye-Perez.

“It wouldn’t matter where each of us are ranked, Arizona versus UCLA history and tradition goes deep, so it’s always a great opportunity for us to compete,” Inouye-Perez said.

Arizona will be the third top-10 team UCLA has played this season, with the Bruins holding a 7-3 record in its previous matchups. Those three losses – two to then-No. 8 and then-No. 3 Oregon and one to then-No. 4 Washington – are the only defeats UCLA has suffered this season.

While the Wildcats have also not recorded a loss to an unranked opponent, they have lost 10 games to top-25 opponents, eight of which were to teams ranked lower than them at the time of the contest.

To prepare for this final series of the season, as well as a campaign for a second straight national championship, redshirt junior infielder Delanie Wisz said the Bruins are trying to maintain the same approach they’ve had all season.

“We’re not really doing too much different. I think we’ve been preparing for the postseason this whole year since the beginning of fall,” Wisz said. “So we’re just staying consistent with how we practice and how we play.”

UCLA has largely found this consistency on both sides of the ball, utilizing depth throughout the lineup. All 10 Bruins who have started at least half of the games this season have a batting average above .300, five of which are over .350.

In the circle, three of UCLA’s four pitchers have an ERA under 2.00, with the pitching staff as a whole holding a 1.15 mark, good for second-best in the nation.

Inouye-Perez said these contributions from throughout the roster are essential for a team that wants to go deep into the postseason, especially considering the Bruins have battled injuries over the course of the season.

“We haven’t really been at full capacity all season, but our depth and versatility this year is our strength,” Inouye-Perez said. “We’re playing great ball as a unit, great contributions from everyone. There is no one person we’re relying on, and that’s when UCLA softball is at our best.”

First pitch against the Wildcats will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday evening at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.

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Coral Smith | Sports senior staff
Smith is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the gymnastics and softball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the softball, gymnastics, women's volleyball, swim & dive and rowing beats. Smith was previously a staff writer on the softball, women's volleyball, rowing and swim & dive beats.
Smith is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the gymnastics and softball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the softball, gymnastics, women's volleyball, swim & dive and rowing beats. Smith was previously a staff writer on the softball, women's volleyball, rowing and swim & dive beats.
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