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Taylor Tinsley powers UCLA softball’s weekend sweep over Stanford

Sophomore infielder Jordan Woolery pushes off the base. (Darlene Sanzon/Daily Bruin)

Softball


No. 11 UCLA1
No. 5 Stanford0
No. 11 UCLA9
No. 5 Stanford3
No. 11 UCLA2
No. 5 Stanford0

By Nicole Augusta

April 22, 2024 7:08 p.m.

Last year, NiJaree Canady’s debut against UCLA spurred a battle of the pitchers.

But during the Bruins’ weekend trip north, the circle was assumed by a new ace.

Taylor Tinsley’s outing solidified UCLA’s conference standing and Stanford’s fate: For the first time in three years, the Cardinal was dealt a sweep at home.

No. 11 UCLA softball (27-9, 12-3 Pac-12) departed Palo Alto victorious Saturday after sweeping No. 5 Stanford (36-10, 13-5) and topping the conference rankings in the teams’ final regular-season matchup.

In a showcase of pitcher resilience through four cycles of the lineup, Tinsley and Canady notably prevented runs from their respective adversaries as the sophomores tacked two extra innings onto the opening game’s runtime.

Tinsley recorded a new high of 15 strikeouts in the longest outing of her career, preventing a single Stanford batter from returning home.

Though coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said the crowd’s energy was strongest during game one, Tinsley said she relied on a quiet mind to close out the contest.

“That’s the most important thing when it comes to pitching: visualizing and zoning in, blocking everything else out,” Tinsley said. “Don’t think about the past, don’t think about the future, but just look at the now.”

Her coach said the pitcher’s evasion of Stanford’s offense contributed to UCLA’s ability to execute.

“Taylor did an amazing job of not only shutting them down by creating a lot of momentum for our team – she got out of some big situations,” Inouye-Perez said. “All that momentum and energy came into the dugout and built confidence for our team.”

Sophomore utility Megan Grant stepped up to the plate in the top of the ninth and hit the first double of the contest. A pinch runner entered for Grant, and on a single from junior utility Taylor Stephens, the runner headed toward home and was called out. After video review, the umpire overturned the original call at home because of obstruction at the baseline, giving the Bruins the sole run of the game.

Grant continued to spark the Bruins’ fire throughout the weekend, exiting the series with five hits in her pocket.

“We’ve seen Megan come through in big situations, but clearly she was on a mission,” Inouye-Perez said. “She hit the ball hard, she was dialed in at the plate, and she was a game changer all weekend for us.”

The initial bullpen victory also provided Inouye-Perez’s 800th program win. Now in her 18th year in the role, the head coach said throughout her time in Westwood, she has helped forge a “Bruin bubble” of support, as exemplified in the weekend’s series.

“We bring in the right Bruins into the program, and, as a result, there’s been a lot of success that I’ve been able to experience,” Inouye-Perez said. “I’m very proud, but it’s the people, it’s the players, it’s my staff that allows for UCLA softball to be successful. And I feel very strongly about that.”

The Bruins unleashed greater offensive production Saturday. Redshirt senior catcher Sharlize Palacios began a five-run fourth inning, adding a two-run home run in the sixth to bring herself and redshirt senior shortstop Maya Brady home.

The team’s performance in game two wasn’t limited to the plate. Freshman Kaitlyn Terry joined Tinsley in the circle, aiding the effort to retire the Cardinal with two strikeouts of her own. By the end of the series, the duo turned away a collective 29 Stanford batters.

“It’s just really awesome to see them feed off each other – like KT (Terry) will have Tins’ (Tinsley’s) back, and Tins will have KT’s back,” said sophomore infielder Jordan Woolery. “I know when they’re out there, we always are going to have a chance to win. They’re always going to do their best and put on a show for us.”

With a series win under their belts and a broom in their hand, the Bruins closed out the weekend with a sweep after a long ball from Woolery broke a scoreless draw in the seventh inning.

She said the performance was representative of a season-long fight.

“The biggest takeaway was just how tough we are – I feel like we’ve been through a lot of adversity this year, but it was really cool to see the resilience,” Woolery said. “We didn’t give up all three days, and we got the outcome that we wanted.”

Only one homestand precedes a redemptive opportunity in the Pac-12 tournament before the Bruins face the potential for a postseason run. But from Tinsley’s perspective, the weekend’s result signals a string of victories to come.

“Our season just turned up a notch, for sure,” Tinsley said.

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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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