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UCLA softball utility Savannah Pola makes rise in play ahead of world series

Savannah Pola jogs across the field. The junior utility recorded two walk-off hits in regional and super regional play. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

By Matthew Royer

May 27, 2024 2:22 p.m.

This post was updated May 27 at 10:50 p.m.

Savannah Pola looked lost two months into the season.

Honored among the Pac-12’s best for her first two years in Westwood, the junior utility’s performance in her third campaign had not matched her previous output.

By the time the Bruins left Seattle in late March, Pola’s batting average remained below .200.

Then April rolled around.

“I actually talked to her on April 1,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “I was like, ‘It’s April Fool’s Day,’ the whole beginning part of the season. She’s one of the most consistent hitters we’ve had in this program her first two years and she flipped it – she went to work.”

Since that fateful talk with her coach, Pola has hit .300 and has come up big for UCLA softball in its undefeated postseason run – helping secure a berth in the Women’s College World Series.

Pola played hero for UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament, regional and super regional play. Against Virginia Tech in the Los Angeles regional semifinal, Pola stepped to the plate with the winning run on third.

“It takes all of us and only one shot,” Pola said after the game against the Hokies.

Pola took her shot, slapping a ball into left field that scored the winning run and sent UCLA to the regional final – which it went on to win in run-rule fashion.

In game one of the super regional against Georgia on Thursday, UCLA had already put together a six-run lead, while freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Terry held the Bulldogs off the board.

Pola entered the batter’s box in the bottom of the sixth with two runners in scoring position and two outs. She ripped the 0-1 pitch into right field, scoring both runners and giving the Bruins a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three series with a run-rule walk-off.

Friday, Pola and UCLA realized their Oklahoma City hopes by sweeping Georgia.

Inouye-Perez said Pola is one of the unsung heroes of the team, as the bottom of the order continues to execute.

Inouye-Perez added that the lineup’s veteran batters, such as senior utility Thessa Malau’ulu and redshirt seniors infielder Seneca Curo and outfielder Janelle Meoño, have also contributed to the postseason run in crucial moments. Inouye-Perez credits their work with associate head coach Lisa Fernandez, who moved from working with pitchers to batters in the offseason.

“I see a complete team, that everyone’s contributing and a big part of that is they are trusting each other, they are passing the bat,” Inouye-Perez said. “It is what we call a ‘we-versus-me’ mentality – that’s when UCLA is at its best.”

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Matthew Royer | Alumnus
Royer joined the Bruin and the News section as a first-year transfer student in 2022 and contributed until he graduated in 2024. He was the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor and the 2022-2023 city and crime (metro) editor. He was also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and was Copy staff. He studied political science and minored in labor studies.
Royer joined the Bruin and the News section as a first-year transfer student in 2022 and contributed until he graduated in 2024. He was the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor and the 2022-2023 city and crime (metro) editor. He was also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and was Copy staff. He studied political science and minored in labor studies.
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