Opening conference play, UCLA softball tallies series win against Cal on the road
Freshman utility Megan Grant prepares to make a play on the ball. Alongside redshirt junior utility Maya Brady, Grant leads all eligible Bruins in RBIs with 14 less hits than Brady. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
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By Matthew Royer
March 12, 2023 11:04 p.m.
Led by an offensive showcase from Megan Grant, the Bruins sealed their first series win of the season.
The freshman utility and Bay Area native went .400 at the plate and scored the winning runs in both victories for the blue and gold over the weekend.
No. 2 UCLA softball (25-2, 2-1 Pac-12) started the Pac-12 season with a series win against California (18-6, 1-2), upending the Golden Bears 10-1 in six innings in the rubber match Sunday. The win came after the Bruins’ second loss of the season Saturday, losing in five innings to Cal by a score of 8-0, and a series-opening 4-0 win Friday. The loss was the blue and gold’s first defeat to the Golden Bears since 2012.
UCLA started the series off with a commanding win led by Grant’s three RBIs and sixth-year pitcher Brooke Yanez’s five shutout innings in the circle.
In Sunday’s contest, Grant and Yanez struck again. In the first inning, Grant provided her team with an early lead, hitting a two-run home run to right field. Grant’s 32 RBIs on the year lead the Pac-12.
In the circle, Yanez picked up where she left off Friday, throwing six innings of one-run ball and securing her ninth win on the season.
Yanez, a graduate transfer from Oregon, said her experience in Pac-12 competition helped guide her for the weekend series.
“I’ve just been thinking about what I’m used to,” Yanez said. “I’ve faced those hitters many, many times.”
Despite the loss Saturday, the Bruins returned to Levine-Fricke Field on Sunday and run-ruled the Golden Bears, similarly to their bounce-back wins in the Judi Garman Classic after losing to then-No. 2 Oklahoma last month.
The team is prepared for challenges, especially after its grueling nonconference schedule up to this point, said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.
“Pac-12 is always just a great opportunity to get challenged,” Inouye-Perez said. “That’s exactly what happened this weekend. I think the best part, and I say this all the time, is that it is not what happens, it is what you do next. It was nice to pay a little more attention to detail and be decisive today (Sunday).”
The series in Berkeley was a homecoming for many Bruins who reside in the Bay Area. Grant and freshman infielder Jordan Woolery grew up in San Bruno and Walnut Creek, respectively. The former said playing in front of her friends and family helped provide a sense of familiarity.
“It just felt like I was right at home,” Grant said.
In the third game, redshirt junior utility Maya Brady translated her hot start to the season to conference play.
Stepping up to the plate in the second inning with junior outfielder Lauryn Carter on third and freshman utility Kennedy Powell on first, Brady scored Carter after singling into center field to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead. In the fifth inning, Brady hit her eighth home run of the season, scoring Powell and redshirt junior outfielder Janelle Meono to give Yanez a 7-1 cushion heading into the sixth.
Yanez said her offense’s consistency has helped her performance in the circle this season.
“It’s nice when your team has your back like that,” Yanez said. “They just showed that they weren’t defeated. … Having teammates that are a collection that will have your back like that is just super important.”
UCLA will continue its season back at Easton Stadium on Tuesday with a nonconference game against Syracuse.
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