UCLA softball shakes off last season, readies up for Friday’s season opener
Sophomore pitcher Taylor Tinsley throws a pitch. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
Feb. 7, 2024 10:58 a.m.
This post was updated Feb. 8 at 9:07 p.m.
The Bruins will begin a new season at Easton Stadium this weekend following a difficult end to 2023.
“There were a lot of things that I felt during that time and a lot of things I had to get through in order to say, ‘I’m OK now,'” said sophomore utility Megan Grant. “It was a long process, but I think now is the right time to say, ‘I’m ready to go’.”
No. 8 UCLA softball will start its 2024 season at home Friday afternoon against Maryland. The original first game of the season – slated for Thursday – against Cal State Fullerton was postponed due to weather.
Originally scheduled to play in the Mark Campbell Invitational on Saturday, UCLA will now play all five games at Easton Stadium in the Stacy Winsberg Tournament, opening with Maryland before facing No. 5 Texas on Friday, San Diego and Texas on Saturday, and No. 11 Oklahoma State on Sunday.
The Bruins’ season-opener marks the first game since their early exit from the NCAA Los Angeles Regional – their first time missing a Super Regional since 2013.
Grant said the upcoming games have been in the back of the Bruins’ minds since they walked off the dirt at Easton Stadium in May.
“I think we’ve just been waiting, kind of since that last game, to really get back going,” Grant said. “Just as we’re getting closer and creeping in, the coaching staff and all of us, we’re all on the same page in terms of, ‘We’re just ready to get back out on the dirt.’”
Grant was selected for the USA Softball Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List alongside redshirt senior shortstop Maya Brady, redshirt senior catcher Sharlize Palacios and sophomore infielder Jordan Woolery.
The Bruins have experienced turnover in their pitcher position with the graduations of the 2022 and 2023 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Faraimo and pitcher Brooke Yanez, who earned Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week four times in her career.
Junior pitcher Mackenzie Ficke – who has never played at the collegiate level – was a late addition to the roster and will join junior pitcher Jada Cecil and freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Terry as new members of the pitching staff. Despite the Bruins’ younger roster, they have been finding their rhythm, sophomore pitcher Taylor Tinsley said.
“I like how all of us are young,” Tinsley said. “We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all just working together, obviously looking for the angle, but the cohesiveness has been really nice.”
The Bruins will have opportunities throughout the tournament to display the squad’s new faces. With three ranked matchups, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said she is looking forward to the new season and establishing a new culture.
“You learn a lot in this next … full year because we’re going to start going to battle, and we’ll start learning a lot about how we throw punches and how resilient we are,” Inouye-Perez said. “We look forward to getting out there and having the opportunity to represent.”
UCLA will host Maryland to begin its season at home, with the opening pitch on Friday at 3 p.m.