Freshmen drive UCLA softball to success over Northwestern, Texas A&M
Brooke Yanez prepares to deliver a pitch. The sixth-year pitcher for UCLA softball retired 19 consecutive batters against Northwestern in a complete-game performance. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 19 Northwestern
|No. 1 UCLA
|No. 1 UCLA
Feb. 26, 2023 7:58 a.m.
Freshman batters spearheaded two Bruin victories Saturday.
But it came as no surprise to coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
“The game doesn’t know how old you are,” Inouye-Perez said. “So they’re no longer freshmen. But it is nice to be able to have new Bruins come in and have almost a new highlight reel that’s being created of just big-time moments.”
No. 1 UCLA softball (17-0) continued its undefeated run in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Saturday, defeating No. 19 Northwestern (5-6) by a score of 2-1 and upending Texas A&M (11-4) in the nightcap 3-0. In both games, UCLA’s starting pitchers pitched all seven innings, helping to offset a cold stretch by the Bruin bats.
Against Northwestern, freshmen utility Megan Grant and infielder Jordan Woolery each hit solo home runs to give UCLA a 2-0 lead. Sixth-year pitcher Brooke Yanez worked well with the cushion, mowing down Wildcat batters to the tune of 19 retired in a row.
While Yanez surrendered a solo shot in the seventh to Northwestern’s Jordyn Rudd, she secured her fifth win of the season alongside five strikeouts on 78 pitches, inducing weak contact to keep the ball out of the outfield.
“I wanted to just focus on commanding the zone and mostly just feeding my defense and having more of a good outcome, whether that’s a strikeout or ground out or pop out,” Yanez said.
Inouye-Perez said Yanez, who transferred to UCLA in the fall and sat out her previous season with Oregon because of an injury, was able to show the softball world what she brings to the Bruins’ rotation.
Against Texas A&M, the story continued for freshman heroics and shut-down pitching.
UCLA worked to get runners on base and eventually capitalized in the fourth inning, scoring two runs off of Aggie errors after junior outfielder Lauryn Carter and freshman utility Kennedy Powell put the ball in play. This allowed freshman infielder Ramsey Suarez to come to the plate pinch hitting for redshirt senior utility Anna Vines.
Suarez jammed herself high and in on a riseball but put enough power into her swing to send the pitch into right field, scoring Carter to give UCLA a 3-0 lead which it would not relinquish.
“All I’ve been wanting to do is just to help the team out and help contribute,” Suarez said.
Suarez gave freshman pitcher/infielder Taylor Tinsley the run support needed to pitch seven innings and notch her second complete-game shutout on the season.
Tinsley conceded four hits during her time in the circle, striking out eight and walking four.
It was those walks that provided some danger for Tinsley and the Bruins, putting the freshman in jams during innings two, five and seven. However, Tinsley rose to the occasion each time, retiring enough Aggie batters to seal win No. 17 of the season for the Bruins.
Inouye-Perez said Tinsley was able to execute when needed and show her confidence out in the circle, exemplifying the strength of her fellow arms in the pen.
“Championships are won in the circle,” Inouye-Perez said. “This pitching staff is doing a great job of carrying on the tradition of UCLA softball. Some of the best pitchers in the game, in the history of the game and the record books, have come through UCLA. These guys are doing exactly the same thing. They’re leaving their mark on the program.”
UCLA will conclude its stint at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic against No. 2 Oklahoma on Sunday, the first time the blue and gold will participate in a No. 1 vs No. 2 regular-season matchup in nearly two decades.
Yanez said the Bruins are prepared for the rematch of last year’s Women’s College World Series semifinal.
“We’re going to obviously have high standards, high expectations for ourselves,” Yanez said. “But also just play our own game how we’ve been playing.”