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UCLA softball starts TaxAct Clearwater Invitational strong with 2 wins

Jordan Woolery swings at the ball. The freshman infielder provided a grand slam for UCLA softball in its win over Alabama on Friday, her first home run as a Bruin. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

Softball


Nebraska0
No. 2 UCLA8
No. 12 Alabama3
No. 2 UCLA5

By Nick Darrow

Feb. 18, 2023 3:03 p.m.

In the Bruins’ first test of the season against ranked opponents, they came away with two wins in as many games.

To kick off its slate of five games at the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational in Florida, No. 2 UCLA softball (9-0) first beat Nebraska (4-4) on Thursday 8-0 in six innings, before defeating No. 12 Alabama (3-2) by a score of 5-3 on Friday.

The Thursday game against the Cornhuskers was highlighted by a two-hit shutout from sixth-year pitcher Brooke Yanez, along with a three-RBI day from freshman utility Megan Grant. In six innings of work, Yanez gave up just three walks compared to seven strikeouts.

In terms of offense, the Bruins were able to use a big sixth inning, in which they put up three runs – two of which came off a Grant double – to end the game two outs into the inning. Grant, who has now started all nine of her games so far as a Bruin, has started her UCLA career by hitting .318 with 11 RBIs.

“We don’t see any expectations. We are so comfortable with each other, we are so ourselves, and we just stay focused on the at-bats,” Grant said.

In the Bruins’ second game of the tournament, they took on the No. 12-ranked Crimson Tide, led by the 2021 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Pitcher of the Year in fifth-year Montana Fouts, who threw a perfect game against the Bruins when they faced off in the 2021 Women’s College World Series.

However, UCLA came out strong Friday, putting up four runs in the first inning off of a grand slam by freshman infielder Jordan Woolery. The long ball marked Woolery’s first home run in the blue and gold, as she now has 14 RBIs to share the team lead with redshirt junior utility Maya Brady.

Woolery said she is happy to make an impact on the field.

“I am just really excited to be out here and perform for my team,” Woolery said. “I know that we have worked hard all season to get here and perform on the biggest stage, so it is really exciting to see the work come out.”

On the defensive side of things, redshirt senior pitcher Megan Faraimo gave up two first-inning runs off a home run, but was able to bounce back and strikeout 13 in a complete-game three-earned run performance. With the win, Faraimo’s record moves to 5-0 on the season, and she has accumulated 51 total strikeouts in 28 innings of work.

In the Bruins’ nine-game winning streak to start the season, pitching has been a large storyline, as the blue and gold now own a 0.78 ERA to go along with seven complete games and 81 strikeouts compared to only 22 hits allowed and eight walks.

Associate head coach Kirk Walker said there was a lot of anticipation going into the tournament, and the team has done a great job stepping up to the challenge.

“There was a lot of excitement around being on ESPN and the crowd,” Kirk said. “I think being on the road and then playing good teams like Nebraska and Alabama led to it being a cool environment”.

The Bruins will now play three games in the next two days, facing off against No. 7 Florida State, No. 9 Virginia Tech and No. 22 Louisiana over the weekend.

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Nick Darrow | Sports reporter
Darrow is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's tennis, men's volleyball and men's soccer beats.
Darrow is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's tennis, men's volleyball and men's soccer beats.
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