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No. 1 seed UCLA set to compete in inaugural Pac-12 softball tournament

Maya Brady goes into her swing. The redshirt junior utility beat out freshman infielder Jordan Woolery for the Pac-12’s batting crown this season. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)


No. 8 seed Arizona or No. 9 seed Arizona State
Thursday, 4 p.m.

Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium
Pac-12 Networks

By Sam Lieberman

May 9, 2023 11:01 p.m.

No matter what the Bruins achieve this weekend, they’ll be a part of history.

No. 1 seed UCLA softball (50-4, 21-3 Pac-12) will open postseason play Thursday, taking on the winner of No. 8 seed Arizona (28-24, 6-18) and No. 9 seed Arizona State (22-25, 6-18). Should the Bruins advance, they will face the winner of No. 4 seed Stanford and No. 5 seed Oregon for a chance to play in the championship game Saturday.

The first-ever Pac-12 softball tournament will take place over four days in Tucson, with the eventual champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said the sheer strength of the Pac-12 was historically the reason a conference tournament was never formed.

“As long as I’ve been a part as a player and as an assistant and as head coach, the Pac-12 never wanted it,” Inouye-Perez said. “We were such a dominant conference and so many teams make it to the postseason that we all said they would rather play each other in postseason instead of having this tournament right before we go.”

However, as UCLA’s 2019 national title represents the conference’s lone championship of the past decade, the conference leaders decided that creating a tournament would provide more exposure for Pac-12 programs.

“To be able to have us play against each other and be able to create some noise, … I think it’s a big part of what we need to do being in the winningest conference in the game,” Inouye-Perez said.

Furthermore, according to Inouye-Perez, many other conferences have seen success with their conference tournament, and she believed it was time for the Pac-12 to follow suit.

Redshirt senior utility Anna Vines agreed with Inouye-Perez’s sentiment about the benefits of creating the conference tournament.

“Obviously, the Pac-12 is a great conference and brings a lot of wins and championships,” Vines said. “It’s a great opportunity for the Pac-12 to be highlighted.”

The Bruins started out Pac-12 play this season 4-3 but have since won 17 in a row to finish with a conference record of 21-3. UCLA finished five games ahead of second-place Washington in the Pac-12 standings, the largest difference between first and second place since 1998.

The Bruins also rank at the top of almost every significant pitching and hitting statistic in Pac-12 play, contributing even more to their billing as favorites to win the tournament.

Freshman infielder Jordan Woolery, who will be getting her first collegiate playoff experience, talked about her expectations preparing for the postseason.

“Just taking it the same as every other game,” Woolery said. “(We need to be) focusing on ourselves too and just playing our best game and not worrying about who’s in the other dugout.”

First pitch for Thursday’s contest in Tucson will take place at 4 p.m.

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Sam Lieberman
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