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UCLA softball sweeps Arizona State to clinch last-ever Pac-12 regular season title

Redshirt senior shortstop Maya Brady holds the bat. Brady moved into second in career home runs for UCLA over the weekend. (Myka Fromm/Photo editor)

Softball


No. 6 UCLA4
Arizona State2
No. 6 UCLA12
Arizona State1
No. 6 UCLA8
Arizona State4

By Samantha Garcia

May 6, 2024 7:21 p.m.

For the 13th time in Pac-12 history, the Bruins were named regular season champions – solidifying the program as the most victorious in conference history.

Claiming the Pac-12 regular season crown, No. 6 UCLA softball (34-10, 17-4 Pac-12) swept Arizona State (19-30, 3-21) on Friday through Sunday in Tempe to close the regular season.

“It was something that I can’t even say was on our radar in February as far as where we would be,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “This is just a product of working hard through season, getting better and stronger every day. Then, when you add a little bit of what we call Bruin magic, … great things happen to teams that just don’t quit.”

Friday’s game was the closest of the three between the Bruins and Sun Devils, with the former scraping by 4-2. UCLA battled at the plate, seeing 161 pitches – a career-high for Arizona State pitcher Deborah Jones – but left 11 runners on base.

Saturday was a different story, with a 12-1 UCLA victory clinching the Pac-12 title.

All 12 Bruin runs on Saturday were scored via home runs. Even Sun Devil infielder Alesia Denby – who hit a homer in all three games – joined in on the action, hitting a home run that gave Arizona State its only run of the night.

Sophomore infielder Jordan Woolery ignited the home run derby with a two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning. And redshirt senior shortstop Maya Brady hit the 67th home run of her collegiate career in the fifth inning to move herself up to second all-time in career home runs in UCLA history.

“UCLA has had some of the best hitters in the game, so for me to even be on that list is so crazy to me,” Brady said. “It’s just a combination of everybody that’s been around me and the coaches that have continued to prepare for five years.”

But the Bruins, ahead by three, were not done there, with junior utility Taylor Stephens coming off the bench as a pinch hitter to hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning.

In the final inning of the night, sophomore utility Megan Grant launched a two-run homer and was followed by Brady who capped off the night with a grand slam.

While Brady bolstered her name on the list of elite hitters in UCLA history, another Bruin redshirt senior – catcher Sharlize Palacios – dominated on defense.

The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week finished a relay at home and chased down another Sun Devil for the double play at third base – to get the Bruins out of the fifth inning.

“She’s a strong quarterback behind the plate,” Inouye-Perez said. “She’s got a calm confidence. Like I say, she’s a senior, she’s experienced, she’s played at the highest level. It’s just Shar being Shar.”

UCLA extended its winning streak into Sunday with a 8-4 win.

Freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Terry, celebrating her 19th birthday in her home state of Arizona, threw every pitch for the Bruins to sweep the series and pick up her 16th win of the season Sunday.

“We’ve been through the highs and lows. We’ve been through the challenges. But honestly, I think we’re on a roll, and we’re going to get to the end,” Terry said.

This weekend’s series secured the Bruins’ spot as the No. 1 seed for next weekend at the last Pac-12 tournament.

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Samantha Garcia | Sports contributor
Garcia is currently a contributor on the gymnastics and softball beats.
Garcia is currently a contributor on the gymnastics and softball beats.
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