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Pro Bruin Rundown: Former Bruins turn pro by joining national leagues, professional teams

Former UCLA softball pitcher/first baseman Rachel Garcia readies for a pitch during her time in Westwood. Garcia made her pro debut June 13. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Lauryn Wang and Joseph Crosby

July 4, 2022 11:43 a.m.

As UCLA Athletics takes a break for the summer, professional sports are still in full swing, with many Bruin alumni representing. Each week during the summer, Daily Bruin Sports will take a look at the standout performances of former UCLA greats from the past week as we count down the days until fall.

Women’s basketball: Chantel Horvat

After high school, Chantel Horvat was faced with the decision to play professional basketball or attend university in the United States.

Five years later, she gets both a degree from UCLA and a chance to go pro.

The former UCLA women’s basketball guard recently signed with AZS AJP Gorzów Wielkopolski after five years in Westwood. She is set to play in the Polish national league and the EuroCup Women this upcoming season.

Horvat signed a training camp contract with the Los Angeles Sparks in April and was the first of six graduating UCLA seniors to secure a professional contract. While she ultimately wasn’t offered a full-time roster spot, she tweeted May 4 that she’s “never been more motivated and excited for what comes next.”

In her fifth season, Horvat averaged 5.4 points per game and 4.6 rebounds while under minutes restrictions because of an ankle injury. The Australian-born player – the first Aussie to play for UCLA women’s basketball – averaged 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds throughout her five-year career with the Bruins.

Throughout Horvat’s tenure with the blue and gold, coach Cori Close praised her vocal leadership style and ability to cement team chemistry. Now, Horvat will have the opportunity to test her skills and discipline at the international level.

Softball: Rachel Garcia

One of the most decorated UCLA softball players in program history has broken through on the professional scene.

Former pitcher/first baseman Rachel Garcia made her pro debut June 13 in the Athletes Unlimited AUX Series, a league focused on expanding playing opportunities and compensation for softball players.

The league features a dynamic tournament format in which the participating teams are rotated after each three-game series, but Garcia’s individual performance was evidenced by a second-place finish on the points leaderboard. Her score was calculated as a combination of team victories and individual excellence.

Garcia was one of 42 athletes playing 18 games at the SDSU Softball Stadium, where she also serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the Aztecs.

The former Olympian, 2021 Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year and two-time recipient of the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award – who also led the Bruins to the 2019 NCAA Women’s College World Series Championship – pitched 27 innings across eight games with 25 strikeouts in the AUX series.

Baseball: Jake Bird, Sean Bouchard, Colorado Rockies

Two former Bruins have made it to The Show.

Right-hander Jake Bird and left fielder Sean Bouchard both debuted for the Colorado Rockies June 16 and June 19, respectively. Bird posted a scoreless inning in his first outing against the Cleveland Guardians, while Bouchard went hitless with a walk in his first start against the San Diego Padres.

Bird played four seasons at UCLA from 2015 to 2018 – earning an All-Pac-12 selection in his senior campaign – before hearing his name called in the fifth round of the MLB Draft by the Rockies. The righty appeared mostly as a reliever during his first three seasons with the Bruins before slotting into a starting role as a senior. He notched a 3.13 ERA across 71 career appearances – 28 of which were starts.

With 9.1 innings across seven appearances in the bigs, Bird has accumulated six strikeouts while allowing two runs.

Bouchard, on the other hand, played three years with the blue and gold from 2015 to 2017 before being selected by Colorado in the ninth round of the draft. In his final season, Bouchard started in all 57 games and, like Bird, earned an All-Pac-12 selection. The former UCLA first baseman has taken to playing corner outfield at the professional level but is still searching for his first big league hit.

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Lauryn Wang | Assistant Sports editor
Wang is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's golf beats.
Wang is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's golf beats.
Joseph Crosby | Assistant Sports editor
Crosby is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats.
Crosby is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats.
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