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Despite pitching blunders, Megans lead UCLA softball to series-opening win

Megan Faraimo looks into home plate between pitches. The redshirt senior pitcher for UCLA softball tied her season high with three home runs allowed Friday night but escaped with a nation-leading 23rd win. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Softball


Arizona State3
No. 2 UCLA7

By Jack Nelson

April 22, 2023 11:24 a.m.

On her final downswing, Megan Faraimo sought to deliver a strike.

The ball didn’t spin toward the strike zone. It found everything but, sailing high over the heads of both her catcher and the umpire.

Yet the redshirt senior pitcher didn’t show frustration or concern. She laughed.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever thrown a pitch like that in the five years of me wearing this jersey, so it was kind of like a holy moly moment,” Faraimo said.

The wild pitch was one among multiple mistakes for its ace Friday night, but No. 2 UCLA softball (41-4, 16-3 Pac-12) overcame nonetheless, commencing its final home series of conference play with a 7-3 victory over Arizona State (21-18, 5-11). The Bruins now find themselves one win shy of claiming their seventh Pac-12 series in as many attempts.

Though her eight strikeouts on the evening showed her typical punchout potency, Faraimo surrendered a trio of home runs for just the second time in 2023. She’s now suffered consecutive multi-home run outings for the first time all year, and just the second time in her career in Westwood.

By her standards, Faraimo said her performance was far from a quality outing.

“I’m really happy that my teammates had my back,” Faraimo said. “That was like a D game for me, so I’m just glad that they have my back out there.”

A D wouldn’t qualify as a passing grade in the classroom, but on the softball diamond, Faraimo’s night proved to be a winning effort in more ways than one.

Faraimo advanced to 23-2 on the season – separating from Troy’s Leanna Johnson to become the winningest pitcher in the country – thanks to a UCLA offense that slowly tacked on runs. With two scores in the first inning, one each in the third and fourth and a three-piece in the fifth, the Bruins completed a ninth straight contest scoring five or more runs.

The Megan on the other side of the ball delivered again and again. Coming within a triple of the cycle, freshman utility Megan Grant turned in a 4-for-4 evening at the plate, bringing in four runs on four hits. A solo shot in the fourth earned Grant her first RBI of the game, and a bases-clearing double an inning later accounted for three more.

With her third performance this season of four or more RBIs, Grant moved past redshirt junior utility Maya Brady for the team lead at 51. And with her home run, she jumped redshirt junior catcher Sharlize Palacios for the second-most homers among all Bruins.

(Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Freshman utility Megan Grant of UCLA softball sizes up her bat before stepping into the batter's box. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Grant said her explosive game was no more than a symptom of sticking to her at-bat mindset.

“Going up to the plate, whether there’s runners on or runners off, there’s always an RBI situation,” Grant said. “I’m just really locked in on my plan and approach. That’s where my mentality comes from.”

Graduate student pitcher Lauren Shaw would take the reins from Faraimo after she gave up her third homer of the night, and Shaw proceeded to hurl 1.2 innings of shutout ball en route to the series-opening triumph.

Friday night was the first segment of Senior Weekend for UCLA, honoring a class that Grant said has already made a difference in her career.

“It’s really sad for me, but I’m just so happy for them, and they’ve taught me so much,” Grant said. “Just how to be selfless, give back to people.”

Saturday and Sunday will also mark the remainder of Faraimo’s final Pac-12 series in Westwood. The redshirt senior is one of three members on UCLA’s four-deep pitching staff that are projected to move on after this season.

The Bruins will end their regular season with a pair of nonconference bouts at home and will likely host regional games in the NCAA tournament, but the emotions of the final ride are already hitting.

“I was bumping (rapper) Mike Sherm on the way to Easton (Stadium) with tears streaming down my face – weirdest experience ever,” Faraimo said. “But this, it means so much.”

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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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