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Softball clinches Pac-12 championship, players and coach earn Pac-12 honors

No. 2 UCLA softball won the Pac-12 title in its weekend series against No. 8 Arizona, winning the championship outright for the first time since 2009. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)


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By Gavin Carlson

May 16, 2021 7:56 p.m.

This post was updated May 16 at 11:48 p.m.

The Bruins entered their final regular-season series needing two wins to clinch a conference championship.

They claimed the title with two games to spare.

No. 2 UCLA softball (41-4, 19-2 Pac-12) clinched its first outright Pac-12 championship since 2009 – the team won a share of the title in 2019 – after winning the first two games of a four-game series against No. 8 Arizona (36-13, 13-10) over the weekend. The Bruins split the remaining two road contests against the Wildcats after claiming their 11th conference title in program history.

“We set goals at the beginning of the year, and winning the Pac-12 title was one of our first,” said redshirt senior pitcher/first baseman Rachel Garcia. “To be able to accomplish that means a lot to this team, especially it being the last weekend against Arizona. We all did our part and that’s what makes this year exciting for all of us.”

UCLA began its title-clinching series Thursday with the team’s best long ball performance in the last four seasons en route to an 8-0 run-rule victory in game one.

After two ground outs for the Bruins to start the game, Garcia hit the first of three consecutive first-inning home runs to give the team a 3-0 lead before recording the third out.

UCLA then added two more bombs in the second and fourth innings – including the second of the game for redshirt freshman utility Maya Brady – to reach five home runs as a team for the first time since Feb. 11, 2017.

In addition to jumpstarting the Bruins’ offense, Garcia pitched all five innings and allowed just two hits to lead UCLA to its 13th run-rule victory of the season.

Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said the run-rule victory was uniquely impressive given the quality of the opponent and the unique circumstances.

“It’s Arizona-UCLA so it’s always a respected rivalry,” Inouye-Perez said. “That literally might have been our best game of the year. In their house against a quality team, they’re offensively and defensively very strong. There was a lot on the line and I’m really proud of how we played.”

After the Bruins needed just five innings to take care of business in the series opener, neither team could put a run on the board through the first five frames in game one of Friday’s doubleheader.

But as she did the day prior, Garcia broke the scoreless tie with another home run and UCLA eventually ended the top of the sixth with a 3-0 lead. The following inning, Garcia was one of three Bruins to score on a home run to straightaway center from redshirt junior infielder Delanie Wisz that pushed the lead to 6-0.

Arizona grabbed two in the seventh but couldn’t stop UCLA from winning its fourth Pac-12 title since 2006.

Brady said the team didn’t even discuss the opportunity of winning the championship until the job was complete.

“One of the special things about this team is we don’t really focus on accomplishments that are at stake,” Brady said. “That entire day, no one even really mentioned what was on the line (in terms of) the Pac-12 title. It was really special that we were able to do it – the Pac-12 conference is so talented and every opponent is pretty tough to play, so it was really exciting.”

In their first game as conference champs and the second leg of Friday’s doubleheader, the Bruins committed two errors and gave the Wildcats four unearned runs before ultimately falling 5-1.

But as it did following each of the team’s previous three losses this season, UCLA responded with a victory. The 7-2 win in the final game of the regular season pushed Garcia’s undefeated pitching record to 14-0 and increased the Bruin’s season winning percentage to .911, the highest for a full season since UCLA Athletics started tracking the statistic in 2014.

Conference Honors

The Pac-12 announced conference awards Sunday, and several Bruins were recognized.

UCLA had five All-Pac-12 First-Team members, including Brady, Garcia, redshirt junior infielder Briana Perez, redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan and redshirt sophomore pitcher/first baseman Megan Faraimo.

The Bruins also had a team member on the All-Pac-12 Second and All-Pac-12 Third teams, two Pac-12 All-Freshman Team members and two Pac-12 All-Defensive Team members. Inouye-Perez also won her second-career Pac-12 Coach of the Year award.

Yet despite all of the honors UCLA received Sunday, one stood out, as Garcia also won the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. She became just the fifth player in conference history to win the award for the third time in her career.

“It’s such an honor,” Garcia said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches for always pushing me to be that 1% better every day at practice, but I’m just super grateful. This is such an exciting year for not just me but this entire team. And I’m super excited for what the future has for these upcoming weekends.”

UCLA will begin its quest for a national championship at 7 p.m. on Friday against Long Beach State at Easton Stadium.

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Gavin Carlson | Sports reporter
Carlson is currently a reporter on the women's basketball beat. He was previously a contributor on the softball beat.
Carlson is currently a reporter on the women's basketball beat. He was previously a contributor on the softball beat.
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