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UCLA softball to face Texas in Women’s College World Series

Members of UCLA softball come together during the 2021 Women’s College World Series. The blue and gold is back in the WCWS for its 31st appearance with a date against Texas on Thursday. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

softball


Team
Thursday, 9 a.m.

USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium
ESPN

By Gavin Carlson

June 1, 2022 11:15 p.m.

Four months ago, the Bruins defeated the Longhorns in the second week of the season.

On Thursday, the two teams will meet in Oklahoma City to begin their respective Women’s College World Series runs.

No. 5 seed UCLA softball (48-8, 19-5 Pac-12) will kickstart its NCAA-record 31st WCWS appearance and quest for a 13th national championship when it faces Texas (43-19-1, 12-6 Big-12) for the second time this season Thursday morning.

No. 1 seed Oklahoma (54-2, 17-1 Big-12) and No. 9 seed Northwestern (45-11, 19-4 Big Ten) round out the blue and gold’s bracket, with the Bruins falling to both teams in consecutive February matchups earlier in the campaign.

Redshirt senior infielder Briana Perez said there are benefits that come with having past experience against upcoming opponents, but added the team treats postseason competition differently.

“I definitely think we learn from when we played them and take that into consideration just watching film,” Perez said. “But at this point in the season, anything can happen. We kind of like to say, ‘It’s a new season.’”

While they faced freshman pitcher Sophia Simpson in their February contest against the Longhorns, the Bruins will likely face off against senior pitcher Hailey Dolcini in Thursday morning’s matchup.

Texas’ ace allowed a pair of runs each in a trio of complete-game outings against Washington in the Seattle Regional. In the Super Regional round, the 2021 Softball America All-American responded to a game one loss with a complete-game five-hitter to help Texas defeat No. 4 seed Arkansas in game two before completing the series upset.

If it’s not Dolcini or Simpson in the circle, the Longhorns could also throw pitcher Estelle Czech. The sophomore ranks second on the team in ERA and innings pitched with at least four appearances while bringing a different look as a left-handed pitcher.

UCLA’s offense is hitting .324 against right-handed pitchers this season, tallying 358 hits in 1106 at-bats. Though in a smaller sample size, the Bruins have been better against lefties, batting .327 with 101 hits in 309 at-bats.

Redshirt senior Delanie Wisz continues to lead the blue and gold offense.

After slashing .469/.575/.891 – all team highs – in UCLA’s 24 Pac-12 games to end the season, the part-time third baseman and catcher has improved on her All-Pac-12 First Team performance thus far in the postseason. Wisz is hitting .500, slugging .938 and is responsible for exactly a third of the offense’s runs batted.

Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said Wisz’s self-confidence has led to this season’s success.

“Delanie, before she even got into the Bruin uniform, is a very confident female,” Inouye-Perez said. “She is fit, she is healthy, she has fun, she loves her teammates, and she’s always been a fierce player. But I think surrounded by this group and having the opportunity to be on this stage, she is shining.”

Similar to Wisz, the entire UCLA defense has elevated its game statistically thus far in the postseason.

The Bruins’ pitching staff ranked second in the nation with a 1.41 ERA heading into the postseason. The staff has been even better in its five postseason pitching performances, as redshirt senior pitcher Holly Azevedo and redshirt junior pitcher/first baseman Megan Faraimo combined for a 1.35 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .159 batting average.

In the two Super Regional contests against Duke’s offense – which entered the series ranking fourth in the country with a 7.36 runs per game average – Faraimo pitched a complete game in game one before clinching a WCWS berth with three scoreless innings to close out game two.

After missing last season’s WCWS run because of an injury, Faraimo said she has added motivation during this season’s trip to Oklahoma City.

“It does feel a little more special,” Faraimo said. “I’ve always been hungry to get here but after not being able to be with my team last year, I just feel very blessed and honored to be here now.”

UCLA will begin its seventh-straight WCWS run against Texas on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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