UCLA softball ends top-two matchup against Oklahoma with shutout loss
Redshirt senior pitcher Megan Faraimo goes through her pitching motion. Faraimo gave up three home runs before being pulled in the second inning as No. 1 UCLA softball was dealt its first loss of the season by No. 2 Oklahoma on Sunday morning. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 2 Oklahoma||14|
|No. 1 UCLA||0|
By Jack Nelson
Feb. 26, 2023 12:09 p.m.
This post was updated on Feb. 26 at 9:29 p.m.
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. — Unusually snow-topped mountains surrounded a packed field for the marquee matchup of the weekend.
A mountain of similarly gargantuan proportions took the field opposite the Bruins, and it proved to be one they could not climb.
No. 1 UCLA softball (17-1) was dealt its first loss of the season by No. 2 Oklahoma (13-1) in a 14-0 run-rule, five-inning defeat. In a contest between the top two teams in college softball, the Sooners added to a chapter they wrote back in the 2022 Women’s College World Series semifinal, handily outscoring the Bruins to close the latter’s time at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
“Today was a day where we had to stop and realize, ‘It wasn’t our day, but what are we going to do about it?’” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “That’s it.”
Courtesy of back-to-back strikeouts by redshirt senior pitcher Megan Faraimo to open the game, UCLA got off to a better start versus Oklahoma than its season-ending defeat in 2022. And despite the three consecutive singles that followed to load the bases, Faraimo escaped the first inning unscathed after forcing a flyout to left field.
The second inning, however, was much more reminiscent of 2022.
With two outs and two strikes on Oklahoma utility Alyssa Brito, Faraimo dealt a pitch that narrowly missed the strike zone. Brito, as well as her following three teammates, would take advantage of the umpire’s call, knocking consecutive solo home runs in addition to a two-run dinger that forced Inouye-Perez to pull Faraimo not even two innings into her outing.
The quick exit was similar for Faraimo as in last year’s WCWS semifinal when she surrendered five runs across three innings pitched in the Bruins’ 15-0 loss to the Sooners.
Faraimo said her performance was a symptom of her opponent capitalizing on miscues and the Bruins not following through on their game plan going in.
“I just need to execute my plan better,” Faraimo said. “We had a pretty sound plan going in, and obviously with a team like that, you make one little mistake and they’re going to send it.”
Graduate student Lauren Shaw stepped into the circle to try and stop the bleeding, but the Oklahoma bats remained explosive. After Shaw allowed a single to her first batter in utility Jocelyn Erickson, utility Haley Lee took the Bruin pitcher yard, extending the Sooners’ lead to 6-0.
As the two-time defending national champions continued to pile on the runs, UCLA failed to respond each time it stepped up to the plate, notching just three hits against pitcher Alex Storako to further lower her 0.45 ERA on the season.
The Bruins’ hottest bat of the lineup in Maya Brady did not contribute to that total, as she was held hitless for just the third time all season. The redshirt junior utility is hitting at a clip of .528 with 19 RBIs and four home runs thus far in 2023.
“A lot of times with Oklahoma, there can be a lot of fear factor, and I think the more exposure that we have against them is great for anybody on our team,” Brady said.
Freshman Taylor Tinsley would follow Shaw as the Bruins’ third different pitcher in as many innings, but the Sooners got to her early and often as well. With six runs on eight hits and two home runs allowed by the newcomer, the visitors put themselves in position for the mercy-rule win by expanding an already-large lead to the ultimate 14-0 tally.
The maiden loss of the season for the Bruins capped a rampant stretch of 18 games in 17 days, with seven ranked wins accumulated in the process.
Inouye-Perez pointed to the team’s exhaustion as a contributing factor to the weekend-ending rout.
“I actually expected this a little sooner because we were getting fatigued,” Inouye-Perez said. “The good thing is we have a large squad.”
Though not a mirror image of the previous bout between the two programs, this edition ended the same – with “Boomer Sooner” call-and-response chants ringing through the air and Oklahoma fans perpetually on their feet.