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UCLA softball to see top-five teams at Shriners Children’s Clearwater Invitational

UCLA softball graduate student outfielder Jadelyn Allchin watches the pitcher. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Nicole Augusta

Feb. 15, 2024 1:02 p.m.

The Bruins have the opportunity to claw their way back from the worst loss in program history.

No. 20 UCLA softball (2-3) will face one of the nation’s best in No. 2 Tennessee (4-0) and top-five encounters in No. 4 Georgia (5-0) and No. 5 Florida State (4-1) at this weekend’s Shriners Children’s Clearwater Invitational kickoff in Clearwater, Florida.

“We’re not at 100%, so we’re going to grind through, and I believe we’ll be tougher and be more prepared as we get later into season,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “It’s going to be a challenging preseason for us until we finally find our groove.”

During last weekend’s tournament, UCLA produced a combined 16 runs – Tennessee has achieved more than double that figure in its four games on the season.

The Bruins won their previous contest against the Volunteers thanks to junior utility Savannah Pola and redshirt senior Maya Brady. While the shortstop’s long ball served as the winning run in 2022, Brady has only produced five hits in 13 at-bats this season.

“Of course, we’re not going to just brush aside this past weekend,” said graduate student outfielder Jadelyn Allchin. “We know it was rough, but we’re ready, honestly, to just look at this next weekend as a new opportunity and a learning opportunity for us all, and we’re ready to just go ahead into this next weekend.”

Last year’s departure of pitchers Megan Faraimo, Brooke Yanez and Lauren Shaw left the circle hollow. Newcomers freshman Kaitlyn Terry and juniors Mackenzie Ficke and Jada Cecil were all called on – alongside sophomore Taylor Tinsley – in last weekend’s games, but the fresh pitching staff could not prevent UCLA’s opponents from launching home runs at the plate.

Florida State has a similarly young pitching staff, boasting freshman Ashtyn Danley – who was part of the No. 3 recruiting class.

But the Bruins will need to expect more than a duel of pitchers this weekend. The Seminoles also boast utility Kalei Harding, for example, who has already notched 11 RBI’s in her senior season. While the Bruins are known for their power hitting, the team’s sophomore class has not yet posted the runs it was associated with last year.

Regardless of past performance, sophomore infielder Jordan Woolery said the season is a clean slate – and still a possibility to surpass preconceptions.

“Even though last year was a lot of success, I can’t let that affect me this year and think I deserve anything when I’m at the plate,” Woolery said. “Just taking my success last year and just building off that this year, too.”

And in the melding of new and old faces, complicated by the loss of redshirt senior outfielder Janelle Meoño and sophomore catcher/utility Alexis Ramirez due to injuries over opening weekend, Woolery said the road map back to victory involves a united pack.

“Our biggest key to success this weekend is just sticking together,” Woolery said. “UCLA has such a rich history of coming back from big deficit – it’s what we call ‘Bruin magic.’”

The Bruins will throw first pitch against the Seminoles on Friday, in a game that Inouye-Perez said will be the first installment of UCLA’s return to where it needs to be.

“It’s, ‘Be better than we were,’” Inouye-Perez said. “That’s the bottom line.”

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Nicole Augusta
Augusta is a 2023-2024 Slot editor and Sports senior staff member on the softball beat. She was previously a Copy and Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student.
Augusta is a 2023-2024 Slot editor and Sports senior staff member on the softball beat. She was previously a Copy and Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student.
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