UCLA softball hits season-high home run total against Arizona in weekend series
Sharlize Palacios rounds the bases after hitting a home run. The redshirt junior catcher for UCLA softball went yard Saturday and Sunday, accumulating six RBIs amid the Bruins’ sweep of the Wildcats. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
|No. 2 UCLA||8|
|No. 24 Arizona||0|
|No. 2 UCLA||8|
|No. 24 Arizona||4|
|No. 2 UCLA||14|
|No. 24 Arizona||5|
April 17, 2023 3:33 p.m.
In a tie ballgame in the top of the seventh inning, Sharlize Palacios stepped up to the plate with two runners on base.
The redshirt junior catcher, who transferred from Arizona prior to the season, had a chance to put the Bruins ahead against her former team.
On an 0-2 pitch, Palacios delivered, driving a ball over the left-field fence for a three-run homer to give UCLA a 7-4 lead.
Palacios’ clutch dinger was one of 10 on the weekend for the Bruins as No. 2 UCLA softball (39-4, 15-3 Pac-12) swept No. 24 Arizona (24-18, 3-12) by scores of 8-0 on Friday, 8-4 on Saturday and 14-5 on Sunday. UCLA has now won 11 straight Pac-12 contests and 12 straight overall.
“It’s definitely a core memory that I made,” Palacios said. “I was really excited, obviously, and then seeing my teammates, I even swatted a Jolly Rancher from Coach Kirk because I wanted to get to my team so bad.”
Palacios’ big hit was the deciding moment in a comeback victory on Saturday.
In the second inning, the Wildcats jumped out to an early 4-0 lead off sixth-year pitcher Brooke Yanez. However, the Bruins clawed back into the game thanks to a sacrifice fly in the third and two-run home run in the fifth by redshirt junior utility Maya Brady.
In the top of the seventh, freshman utility Megan Grant walked and infielder Jordan Woolery singled to start the rally for UCLA. Then, graduate student outfielder Aaliyah Jordan singled up the middle to tie the game at four and set up Palacios with two runners on. After Palacios’ home run, an RBI double three batters later by fifth-year infielder Rachel Cid gave the Bruins five total for the inning.
Brady applauded coach Kelly Inouye-Perez for helping the team remain composed despite facing a deficit.
“Coach I does a really great job of making sure that we’re always locked into our process, not getting caught up in things that we can’t control,” Brady said. “Coach I always says calm is contagious, so she’s trying to keep a cool demeanor in spite of the situation.”
UCLA’s late-inning burst provided enough run support for the shutdown pitching of freshman Taylor Tinsley and redshirt senior Megan Faraimo, who held Arizona scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Friday’s contest was much more lopsided than Saturday’s. Opening up the series, UCLA jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to a three-run blast by freshman utility Kennedy Powell, the first of her career.
“I was just glad I got to come through for my team in that moment,” Powell said. “I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress since the beginning of the season. Obviously, I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m proud of the position that I’m in now.”
The Bruins slowly kept adding to their lead. Brady hit a two-run home run in the third while Jordan tacked on a solo shot in the fifth and a two-run single in the seventh.
In the circle, Faraimo started for UCLA, tossing six scoreless innings before graduate student pitcher Lauren Shaw completed the shutout.
Palacios, who caught all four Bruin pitchers this weekend, praised the strength of the staff when asked about the ease of calling games behind the plate.
“We have the best pitching staff in the nation, I believe in my heart,” Palacios said. “Each one of them can complement each other very, very well.”
The Wildcats average the fourth-most runs per game in the country with 7.35, but the Bruins held them at an average of 3 over the weekend.
UCLA closed out the weekend by smacking five home runs, the most it has hit in a game since a 14-2 win against Texas A&M on March 5, 2022.
Sunday’s season-high home run total came from Palacios, Brady, Grant twice and Woolery. The Bruins scored 11 runs off the long ball, highlighted by Grant’s first career grand slam in the top of the fifth inning to put UCLA up 14-2.
Grant said the pop she generated off her bat initially took her off guard in a new environment.
“I was seeing the ball well overall and just keeping things simple,” Grant said. “It was my first time playing in Arizona. I was like, wow, I didn’t expect the ball to fly that much.”
The Bruins have now hit multiple home runs in six straight games. A big part of that is the performance of Brady, who homered in all three games this weekend and has gone deep in four consecutive contests.
Faraimo started in the circle once again on Sunday. Despite giving up two solo home runs, the pitcher picked up her third win of the series to improve her record to 22-2.
“Where we are right now is a product of a whole season. We’ve done some great things. We’ve been challenged. We’ve had to respond. We’ve had to go back to work,” Inouye-Perez said. “But all those things happen in what we call trusting the process. It’s a journey getting through seasons to be at your best when it matters most.”
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