Despite title loss to Utah, UCLA softball still boasts top players, coaching staff
Jordan Woolery rushes to first base to make a play. The infielder for UCLA softball was recently awarded Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, one of four Bruins to be honored. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
May 16, 2023 12:41 p.m.
This post was updated May 16 at 10:54 p.m.
The Bruins got their first taste of defeat in nearly two months Saturday.
The loss tore down their hopes of claiming the first-ever Pac-12 tournament title and snapped a 25-game win streak.
Despite the dent in its armor, UCLA softball will still enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 2 national seed when it kicks off regionals Friday. And at their disposal, the Bruins tout the top player, pitcher, freshman and coach in the conference.
So while Utah may have shocked softball fans across the country when it upset UCLA in the Pac-12 championship, the defeat will only sharpen the Bruins’ focus toward their ultimate goal.
“We’re not done yet,” said redshirt senior pitcher Megan Faraimo. “Even if we didn’t get the outcome, we get a little taste of the pressure moments before heading into NCAAs.”
Prior to the tournament last week, the Pac-12 announced its regular-season awards Wednesday as UCLA pulled off a near-sweep. Redshirt junior utility Maya Brady headlined the crew with Pac-12 Player of the Year honors, Faraimo garnered Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, infielder Jordan Woolery picked up Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and coach Kelly Inouye-Perez won her third Pac-12 Coach of the Year award.
Brady became the ninth player in program history to be named the conference’s player of the year after a dominant regular season in which she hit .456 with 16 home runs while making the switch from outfield to shortstop.
“It’s just an honor,” Brady said. “It’s an honor to wear this uniform, and I’m just so lucky.”
And she showed just why she earned the award in UCLA’s opening contest of the Pac-12 tournament, hitting two long balls, including the go-ahead home run in a 4-3 win for the Bruins.
Inouye-Perez said while there’s always a lot of external noise surrounding Brady, the true athlete in her has emerged this season – and it has shown up in crucial moments.
“There’s talent, but then there’s talent that gets it done when it counts. And that’s what puts Maya in a different category is the literally big-time, loud at-bats in the big moments,” Inouye-Perez said.
Alongside Brady, Faraimo and Woolery, freshman utility Megan Grant rounded out UCLA’s four first-team All-Pac-12 honorees. Despite conceding Freshman of The Year honors to her teammate Woolery, Grant ranks second in the nation among freshmen in regular-season RBIs with 12 home runs to boot.
Grant has set the tone for Brady for much of the season as the Bruins’ leadoff ahead of the Pac-12 Player of the Year in the second spot.
“It’s such an honor seeing Maya do Maya things,” Grant said.
While Inouye-Perez had plenty of praise for her award-winning players, she also cautioned that such recognitions don’t define her group.
“We celebrate it, and then we move on for the team,” Inouye-Perez said. “We’re more than that. We’re more than just the player, the pitcher, the freshman.”
As the awards season rolls on with the start of win-or-go-home softball, Inouye-Perez won’t let the noise get to her team.
“We can’t get on the rollercoaster of what other people think,” Inouye-Perez said. “We know what we are.”