Softball begins NCAA championship chase with mercy-rule win over Long Beach State
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Megan Faraimo pitched a complete game shutout in No. 2 seed UCLA softball’s NCAA tournament-beginning contest against Long Beach State on Friday night. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|Long Beach State||0|
|No. 2 seed UCLA||8|
By Jon Christon
May 21, 2021 10:40 p.m.
This post was updated May 21 at 11:07 p.m.
The Bruins began their title defense with no mercy.
Seven hundred and seventeen days after taking home the NCAA’s last softball national championship, No. 2 seed UCLA softball (42-4, 19-2 Pac-12) began its journey for the next one Friday with an 8-0 mercy-rule win over Long Beach State (30-10, 22-2 Big West) in the first game of its NCAA regional.
“Game one is always the big one in (the) postseason, so I love that my team showed up tonight and was ready to compete,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “The best part of game one is there’s always some nerves. And I always tell them, ‘The team that settles into their game first has the best opportunities to win.’ And I really like how we settled in quickly.”
UCLA started its postseason with redshirt sophomore pitcher/first baseman Megan Faraimo in the circle, who opened the game with a 1-2-3 first inning to set the stage for the bottom half. UCLA then scored two runs – neither on hits – to give itself a 2-0 lead after one inning.
Faraimo said getting early run support helps her on the mound, even if her mindset doesn’t change.
“It makes it a lot easier,” Faraimo said. “I do try to tell myself when I’m on the mound that it’s a 0-0 ball game so that I’m competing just as hard and just trying to get my team back in the dugout so they can keep scoring runs.”
Another scoreless top half from Faraimo led to more runs in the bottom half of the second, as a single and an error put two runners on for redshirt junior infielder Briana Perez’s three-run blast to left center to give her a tie for the team lead at 12 home runs on the season.
Redshirt senior pitcher/first baseman Rachel Garcia – also sitting at 11 home runs to begin the second inning – followed Perez’s home run with one of her own to extend UCLA’s lead to six.
The team’s home run leader at the start of the inning, redshirt junior catcher Delanie Wisz, joined in on the home run parade and took back her home run lead with one swing, launching a ball to Sunset Boulevard to complete the back-to-back-to-back home run feat.
Wisz said the team’s home run lead is a running joke inside the clubhouse, but ultimately it doesn’t matter as long as her team is winning.
“We all kind of have this inside joke between all of us that whoever is leading, it’s not going to be a lead for long,” Wisz said. “But we don’t really care who’s a team leader as long as we’re all just getting it done at the plate.”
UCLA did the majority of this early damage against a familiar face in Long Beach State pitcher Kellie White, who the Bruins tagged for five runs on May 5 in a 5-1 win. White’s ERA again took a hit this time around as the senior gave up three earned runs in just one inning of work.
White was relieved by Samantha Fowler in the second inning following the two straight home runs. After giving up another homer – Wisz’s 13th of the season – Fowler quieted down the Bruins’ bats, limiting them to just one hit while striking out three while in the second and third innings.
However, after retiring Garcia, Wisz tagged Fowler again in the fourth inning, hitting another long ball to left field to give UCLA the eight-run lead necessary to end the game early.
Wisz – who also faced off against Fowler on May 5 – said her past experience with the opposing pitchers led to her big night at the plate.
“I was just trying to see the ball big,” Wisz said. “We saw her two weeks ago when we played them, so I just knew that she was going to throw something to me that I could hit. So I was just looking to hit the ball really hard.”
Faraimo made sure the contest would only last five innings, striking out the side in the fifth to secure the Bruins’ 14th mercy-rule win on the season. Faraimo pitched a complete five innings, allowing just two hits while striking out 11.
“Megan was Megan – she pounds the zone,” Inouye-Perez said. “Her biggest strength is she’ll go right at you. … She goes to the zone and she competes. And she was Megan Faraimo tonight and I think nothing different than what we have been seeing all year.”
UCLA will continue the postseason with a matchup against Fresno State, which is coming off a shutout victory of its own in the previous regional game, on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.