Pro Bruin Rundown: From World Cup to independent baseball, Bruins make mark on professional stage
Former UCLA women’s soccer defender Madelyn Desiano prepares to kick the ball. Desiano picked up her first career goal in the NWSL on July 22. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
July 30, 2023 1:00 p.m.
As UCLA Athletics takes a break for the summer, professional sports are still in full swing, with many Bruin alumni representing. Each week during the summer, Daily Bruin Sports will take a look at the standout performances of former UCLA greats from the past week as we count down the days until fall.
Women’s soccer: Madelyn Desiano, Houston Dash; Jessie Fleming, Canadian Women’s National Team
Madelyn Desiano charged at the goal, collecting a cross just feet away from the penalty box.
Surrounded by three red jerseys with no teammates in front of her, the Houston Dash rookie launched a ball toward the goal.
Despite having four players between Desiano and the net, the Kansas City Current couldn’t prevent a special moment.
Desiano buried the ball in the top-right corner of the goal, past a flying goalkeeper for her first career NWSL score.
The long-time defender was lined up at left wing for the contest, but Desiano wasn’t exactly a stranger to the offensive side of the pitch. In her time as a member of UCLA women’s soccer, she tallied 14 assists across her final two seasons and notched a trio of goals in her final year, including one in the NCAA semifinal against Alabama.
Following a three-year career at UCLA – having missed the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to ACL injuries – Desiano started in all but two of the Bruins’ contests in 2022. Following the season, Houston selected her No. 48 overall in the 2023 NWSL Draft.
Then, on July 22, she made her mark.
After making five appearances at various positions, Desiano earned the start and broke the 0-0 tie with her 17th-minute goal. Her teammates clamored around her with celebratory hugs as the rookie put her team in front.
While Desiano is finding success on the domestic front, former UCLA midfielder Jessie Fleming is leading her country to success on the international stage.
Captain of the Canadian Women’s National Team, Fleming didn’t play in Canada’s first game of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which ended in a draw against Nigeria.
But she starred on the pitch for the entirety of her country’s second game of Group B.
Fleming and the rest of the Canadian squad ended Ireland’s World Cup hopes Wednesday with a 2-1 victory. With the win, Canada and Nigeria are tied atop Group B, with both teams carrying a goal differential of one following Nigeria’s 3-2 defeat of Australia.
Canada controls its own destiny and can guarantee itself a place in the Round of 16 with a win over Australia in its final game of the group stage.
Baseball: Kenny Oyama, Boise Hawks; Kyle Mora, Milwaukee Milkmen
While UCLA baseball alumni take to the major and minor leagues, a pair of former Bruins are making waves of their own in independent ball.
Outfielder Kenny Oyama and right-hander Kyle Mora are taking to the Pioneer League and American Association, respectively. As independent leagues, neither are associated with any major or minor league clubs. However, both Oyama and Mora are playing in MLB Partner Leagues, which aim to grow baseball as a whole.
Oyama is in his first season with the Boise Hawks after spending four years with Loyola Marymount before transferring to UCLA for his final season in 2022. The 5-foot-4 outfielder swiped a team-high 20 bags for the Bruins while carrying a .284 batting average and a .403 on-base percentage.
Now, Oyama is posting similar batting numbers in his rookie campaign with the Hawks. The former Bruin is carrying a .315/.382/.394 slash line across 36 games, is fourth in batting average on his team, and has walked more times than he has struck out.
Oyama’s Hawks are currently second in the South Division of the Pioneer League at 31-25, trailing the Ogden Raptors by 4.5 games.
And in the American Association, Mora and the Milwaukee Milkmen are leading the charge. The Milkmen carry the best record in their league at 40-25, good for a three-game lead overall and a 5.5-game lead in the East Division.
A career 2.54 ERA pitcher with the Bruins, Mora tossed just 12 innings in his first season with the Milkmen in 2022. But this year, he leads the team in innings pitched with 73 and has notched a 3.95 ERA in the process. His six pitching wins are tied for second-most on the team, while his 48 strikeouts place him just one outside the top three for the Milkmen.