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UCLA softball wins Utah series, gives up 1st mercy-rule loss since 2017

Redshirt senior infielder Briana Perez walks to the dugout as Utah celebrates its mercy-rule victory Sunday. Perez and No. 3 UCLA softball claimed the first two games of the series but couldn’t complete the sweep, losing via mercy rule for the first time in five years. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)

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By Diego Farinha

May 2, 2022 12:33 a.m.

The Bruins won the series, but in going for the series sweep, they took a mercy-rule defeat for the first time since 2017.

No. 3 UCLA softball (39-6, 15-3 Pac-12) shut out Utah (24-24, 6-12) by scores of 1-0 and 2-0 in the series’ first two matchups Friday and Saturday, respectively. The roles reversed Sunday afternoon at Easton Stadium as the Bruins were shut out 8-0 over five innings, losing in mercy-rule fashion for the first time in five years.

“Hats off to them (Utah),” said assistant coach Kirk Walker. “They made adjustments offensively and they took advantage of our mistakes – took advantage of our pitching mistakes and capitalized when they had runners on.”

After recording a win and save on Friday and Saturday, respectively, redshirt junior pitcher/first baseman Megan Faraimo did not have the same success in the circle Sunday.

Two of the first three Utes whom Faraimo faced hit solo home runs to start the game before an error extended the inning, ultimately allowing Utah to build a four-run lead in the first – UCLA’s biggest deficit of the season.

The Bruins had a chance to cut into the lead in the bottom of the third. With the bases loaded, utility Maya Brady stepped up to the plate. With a full count, the redshirt sophomore grounded into a double play, ending the inning despite UCLA threatening to get on the board.

From there, Utah added to its lead with one run in the fourth and three more in the fifth.

Facing a deficit of eight runs, the Bruins needed to cross the plate in the fifth to extend the game but failed to do so, going down 1-2-3.

“Anytime you take a loss like that, you have to be able to reflect and be able to move forward,” Walker said. “Just as the wins that we’ve had don’t mean anything, that loss doesn’t necessarily mean anything unless you let it affect you. … The loss is important for us to do something about it and see how we respond, but the loss itself won’t be the defining moment.”

In the series opener, Faraimo – the Pac-12’s leader in strikeouts – started in the circle and added to her tally by fanning nine Utah batters over seven innings.

Her one run of support came in the second inning off the bat of redshirt sophomore utility Seneca Curo, who drove in freshman utility Savannah Pola with a single to right field.

The following day, redshirt senior pitcher Holly Azevedo followed up her teammate’s shutout performance with one of her own. Azevedo allowed one hit over 6.1 innings, with Faraimo coming in relief to record the game’s final two outs.

Faraimo said she and Azevedo take the ball from each other depending on their opponents’ tendencies.

“We’re seeing certain swing patterns that my pitch is more aligned to, and the same thing would happen if I was in and someone else had a swing pattern that aligned to her pitches,” Faraimo said. “We’re all very communicative and we know our roles.”

On Saturday, an RBI infield single from Pola put the Bruins on the board in the first inning – a lead that proved to hold strong through seven innings of play.

Redshirt senior infielder Briana Perez added to the score with an inside-the-park home in the third inning. The lefty shortstop hit a long drive into center field that hit the top of the wall, and Perez continued to run around the bases as the outfielders scrambled for the ball, allowing her to double UCLA’s lead.

“I thought she was going to catch it first, but I saw it hit off the wall and then I looked at coach Kirk, and he’s just always sending me (home), so the mentality is you just run everything out no matter what on this team,” Perez said. “Luckily, it paid off in the end.”

With the series win, UCLA now sits one game behind Arizona State – its next opponent – in the Pac-12 standings.

Faraimo said she is looking forward to seeing how the team responds to the loss in its upcoming road trip.

“The coolest thing about this team is that stuff like this doesn’t stay in our head for long,” Faraimo said. “I’m excited to see what we do next weekend.”

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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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