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Scouting report: UCLA softball

By Diego Farinha

Feb. 10, 2022 2:03 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article’s graphic misspelled Aaliyah Jordan’s name.

This post was updated Feb. 11 at 4:45 p.m.

No. 3 UCLA softball opens its 2022 season against Cal State Northridge on Thursday, night in Westwood. The Bruins begin the year ranked in the top three for the 13th time in program history and have a chance to climb even further right away with a matchup against No. 1 Oklahoma – the team that knocked the blue and gold out of the postseason last year – looming at the end of opening weekend. In her 16th season in the dugout, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez will attempt to lead her team to a seventh consecutive Women’s College World Series and its second national championship in four seasons.

Three Bruins were named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watchlist prior to the start of the season.

One of them – redshirt junior pitcher/first baseman Megan Faraimo – was a finalist for the award last season.

The two-time All-Pac-12 First Team selection was a finalist after winning 19 games over 133 1/3 innings and a conference-best 1.10 ERA. Faraimo helped pace the Bruins, who led the Pac-12 in earned run average, opposing batting average and wins.

Alongside her was pitcher/first baseman Rachel Garcia, who was right behind Fariamo with 18 wins over 136 1/3 innings pitched. With the departure of Garcia after last season, redshirt senior pitcher Holly Azevedo will have more time in the circle.

That shouldn’t be a problem, as Azevedo has compiled a 42-2 record over the past four years with a 2.06 ERA. The redshirt senior has won 15 games and pitched over 100 innings in a season before, so she has shown she can handle an increased workload.

The other two pitchers listed on the roster are redshirt sophomore pitcher/utility Lexi Sosa and graduate student pitcher Lauren Shaw. Sosa holds a 6-0 record over the past two seasons, while Shaw is a transfer from Iowa with a 21-18 record during her four years with the Hawkeyes.

The last time Faraimo and Azevedo were the Bruins’ 1-2 punch, the team sat atop the rankings at 25-1 before the season was canceled because of COVID-19.

Anchoring a UCLA infield that returns all its production is another watchlist candidate – redshirt senior Briana Perez.

The shortstop led the Bruins last season in multiple offensive categories – namely batting average, hits and runs – while coming in second in RBIs. Perez also makes plays on the field, as she has been recognized with two All-Pac-12 Defensive selections over the past three years.

Leading the team in RBIs is redshirt senior infielder Delanie Wisz, the fielder to Perez’s right. The left side of the infield provided much of the power for the blue and gold as it combined for 27 home runs and 85 RBIs.

On the right side of the diamond, redshirt junior utility Anna Vines and redshirt senior infielder Kinsley Washington occupy second and first base, respectively.

The returning players combined to play 205 out of 216 games last season, and three of the four infielders were the top three hit-leaders a year ago. Not only will their offensive consistency be maintained, but the cohesiveness of the unit makes it one of the strongest parts of the squad.

And with the addition of freshman utility Savannah Pola – the sixth-ranked recruit of 2021 – this group of infielders will be very exciting to watch.

If the production from last year’s outfield continues into 2022, the Bruins are in good shape.

The blue and gold had three of its outfielders named to the Softball America Preseason Top 50.

Though former Bruin Bubba Nickles will be in the dugout instead of center field, the bats and gloves of redshirt junior outfielder Kelli Godin, redshirt sophomore utility Maya Brady and redshirt senior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan remain. The three combined for 128 hits, 23 home runs and 77 RBIs last season.

Brady and Jordan were named to the 2021 All-Pac-12 First Team, while both were named Preseason Second Team All-Americans.

Beyond these three, there isn’t much experience to go around with no other primary outfielder having seen more than 32 at-bats last season. This open plate time will give opportunities to a newcomer, perhaps with Pola in the outfield to utilize her bat.

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Diego Farinha | Sports staff
Farinha is currently a Sports staffer on the softball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat.
Farinha is currently a Sports staffer on the softball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat.
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