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With freshman-heavy lineup, UCLA softball readies to face Oregon State

Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez talks to her team between innings. Inouye-Perez of UCLA softball continues to lead the Bruins in 2023 amid her 17th year in the head-coaching role. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Softball


Oregon State
Thursday, 5 p.m.

Easton Stadium
Pac-12 Networks
Oregon State
Friday, 6 p.m.

Easton Stadium
Pac-12 Los Angeles
Oregon State
Saturday, 1 p.m.

Easton Stadium
Pac-12 Networks

By Nicole Augusta

April 6, 2023 11:02 a.m.

After sweeping their last conference series, as well as winning a midweek non-conference game, the Bruins are coming home.

No. 3 UCLA softball (33-4, 9-3 Pac-12) will kick off its series against Oregon State (11-20-1, 2-9-1) at Easton Stadium on Thursday with the chance to extend its current six-game winning streak.

The Bruins swept the Beavers in their latest matchup in Corvallis last April. UCLA has won its last 12 games against Oregon State throughout the past four years, and is 57-12 all-time in the history between the two programs.

Since then, the Bruins have acquired new blood via their freshmen, most impactfully in the form of freshman utility Megan Grant and infielder Jordan Woolery. Though Oregon State was good for a Women’s College World Series run last year, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said it will see a whole new team in UCLA amid the latter’s quest to lift a WCWS trophy once more.

“We have definitely had a freshman-heavy (lineup) because they’ve earned it. … I’m fortunate to be able to have options because we have such great versatility, athleticism and depth,” Inouye-Perez said.

In addition to Woolery’s .364 clip, freshman utility Kennedy Powell also sits in the top five on the team in batting average at .343. Another top Bruin hitter to keep an eye on is redshirt junior utility Maya Brady, who leads in hits, home runs and RBIs for UCLA’s current season.

Junior outfielder Lauryn Carter is ready to take the upcoming series one game at a time, working together as a team to remain in the win column.

“It’s going to be an exciting series, especially with … the run they had last year to the World Series,” Carter said. “We’re really just dialing in finding little wins and little opportunities … to truly prepare for the weekend.”

Carter was a standout in Tuesday’s win against UC San Diego, in which an explosive fourth inning shattered a two-inning scoring drought by both teams.

Inouye-Perez said the midweek contest exemplified the endurance of her players.

“This team doesn’t quit, and hitting is contagious,” Inouye-Perez said. “So when they pulled together that inning of six runs, it was really exciting to watch.”

Then-No. 6 Stanford is the most recent conference opponent to be defeated by UCLA, marking the Bruins’ first conference sweep of the season. The Beavers did not have the same fortune, and instead were swept by the Cardinal, with the closest game decided by four runs. The losses kick-started a five-game slump for Oregon State, which was only just recently broken in the final contest of its series against Oregon last weekend.

Carter said her upcoming opponent’s resume does not concern her, and instead plans to use the victory over the Tritons as momentum.

“Our team’s goal and dynamic recently is just to dial in and focus on one game at a time,” Carter said.

Looking toward the bullpen for opening night of the series, the Bruins are likely to face Beaver pitchers junior Tarni Stepto or sophomore Sarah Haendiges, who are tied for the team lead in wins this season. Stepto leads the Beavers in strikeouts with 77, followed by Haendiges with 38. The duo also ranks first and third, respectively, on the team-wide leaderboard for appearances and innings pitched.

Inouye-Perez said her team will not back down from Oregon State’s WCWS-experienced pitching staff, nor will they focus heavily on their recent triumphs against Stanford.

“It’s the same sport but we’re just trying to play our game. We respect every opponent, and we fear nobody,” Inouye-Perez said. “So with that, it’s our own challenge of how we’re going to play to our standard. And that is going to be the goal.”

Games at Easton Stadium this weekend are set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with first pitches thrown at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.

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Nicole Augusta
Augusta is a 2023-2024 Slot editor and Sports senior staff member on the softball beat. She was previously a Copy and Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student.
Augusta is a 2023-2024 Slot editor and Sports senior staff member on the softball beat. She was previously a Copy and Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student.
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