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Freshman Megan Grant spurs UCLA softball’s sweep of Stanford

Megan Grant smiles as she rounds the bases. The freshman utility for UCLA softball added two hits Sunday to finish 4-for-8 at the plate this weekend against Stanford. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

Softball


No. 6 Stanford0
No. 3 UCLA3

By Jack Nelson

April 3, 2023 2:14 p.m.

It was a freshman fiesta at Easton Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but one newcomer above all gave the Bruins reason to celebrate.

No. 3 UCLA softball (32-4, 9-3 Pac-12) completed a 3-0 shutout of No. 6 Stanford (28-6, 5-4) to achieve its first sweep of conference play after dropping one game to each of its first three opponents. Holding the Cardinal to just one run all series, the Bruins now stand alone atop the Pac-12 at the midway point of their conference schedule.

Freshman utility Megan Grant – who took leadoff duties for the second time all season – proved to be the life of the party in the series finale Sunday.

Grant connected with Alana Vawter’s second pitch of the afternoon for a towering solo shot over the right field wall, giving UCLA an early edge after its first at-bat of the day.

“Honestly, I was not expecting to hit the off-speed,” Grant said. “I just saw it high and saw a ball that I could drive, so I just swung.”

Two innings later, she very nearly replicated the feat.

Grant once again opened the bottom half of an inning for the Bruins with solid contact, launching the ball high into the air and just over the outstretched glove of outfielder Kaitlyn Lim at the right-field wall. The unsuccessful robbery attempt from Lim allowed Grant to reach third, and had the arc of the ball been a foot or so higher, she would’ve touched them all.

Regardless, UCLA capitalized, as an RBI single into left from freshman infielder Jordan Woolery sent Grant home to extend the lead to 2-0 in the third.

The pair of extra-base hits would be all for Grant on the day, but it was enough to extend her hitting streak to seven games and mark her first multi-hit effort since March 10 – all while accounting for a critical two runs.

“Bottom line, (she’s a) diamond in the rough in that she was from a small town and is now playing on a big stage, and is now doing an amazing job for us,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.

Following the tone set by her fellow freshmen in Grant and Woolery, pitcher Taylor Tinsley held the Cardinal to nothing but zeroes on the scoreboard. With three hits allowed and three strikeouts recorded, Tinsley kept Stanford’s lineup quiet for all four innings of her start.

Freshman pitcher Taylor Tinsley of UCLA softball delivers a pitch. Following her run-free outing Sunday, Tinsley now ranks second on the Bruin pitching staff in ERA. (Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff)

Inouye-Perez opted for experience down the stretch by handing the ball to graduate student pitcher Lauren Shaw for the fifth and sixth innings, and sixth-year pitcher Brooke Yanez for the seventh.

Lowering her season ERA to 1.65 with the outing, Tinsley threw off Stanford’s offense with the way she operated in the circle, according to Inouye-Perez.

“I think it was unpredictable. I don’t think Stanford had a clue who she was,” Inouye-Perez said “But she came in and she was Taylor Tinsley, and her teammates just pumped her up like no other.”

Before Yanez could come in to earn the save, a familiar source of run insurance from the past would make her life a bit easier.

Following a night in which her two-run homer served as the series clincher, graduate student outfielder Aaliyah Jordan went yard once more Sunday, smacking a solo dinger to left field in the sixth inning.

The contribution from the oldest Bruin on the roster stood in stark contrast to the youth of Grant, Woolery and Tinsley that propelled the blue and gold to a third consecutive top-10 win.

Tinsley said the Bruin freshmen – who came to Westwood as the No. 2-ranked class in the country – have continuously made their presence known.

“With us coming out with a bang like we typically do, especially with Jordan and Megan in the lineup consistently, I just think we made some noise,” Tinsley said.

The weekend battle between the Pac-12’s highest-ranked programs was billed as a pitching duel – and it came exactly as advertised. The war of attrition resulted in just 10 combined runs across the trio of contests, as the country’s No. 5- and No. 9-ranked pitching units ensured that scoring would be a luxury Friday through Sunday.

And given that scarcity, Grant credited Stanford with making the sweep no simple task.

“That’s a great team out there. We literally had to put 100% of all of what we had,” Grant said. “It didn’t matter who it was. Everyone had to buy in, and that’s what we did.”

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Jack Nelson | Sports senior staff
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
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