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No. 3/3 UCLA Returns to St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational

Feb 16, 2022
Briana Perez

LOS ANGELES – The Bruins will take their talents to the Florida Gulf coast to play five games at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational held at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex this weekend. All of No. 3/3 UCLA's (4-1) games will be aired by the ESPN family of networks, including a primetime matchup with No. 5/6 Florida State (4-0) on ESPN. 

The Bruins open with RV/23 Northwestern (4-1) on Friday, Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. PT on ESPN+. On Saturday, Feb. 19, UCLA plays two on ESPNU, beginning with RV/25 Auburn (5-0) at 7 a.m. PT and ending with No. 11/9 Texas (4-1) at 1 p.m. UCLA ends the tournament with another double-header featuring Wisconsin (3-3) at 9 a.m. PT on ESPNU and a top-10, nationally televised showing versus the Seminoles at 4 p.m. 

GAME 1: Friday, Feb. 18 vs. RV/23 Northwestern
Venue: Eddie C. Moore Complex
First Pitch: 10 a.m. PT
Watch: ESPN+
Talent: Tiffany Greene (PxP), Madison Shipman (color)
Live Stats

GAME 2: Saturday, Feb. 19 vs. RV/25 Auburn
Venue: Eddie C. Moore Complex
First Pitch: 7 a.m. PT
Watch: ESPNU
Talent: Tiffany Greene (PxP), Madsion Shipman (color)
Live Stats

GAME 3: Saturday, Feb. 19 vs. No. 11/9 Texas
Venue: Eddie C. Moore Complex
First Pitch: 1 p.m. PT
Watch: ESPNU
Talent: Beth Mowins (PxP), Michele Smith (color)
Live Stats

GAME 4: Saturday, Feb. 20 vs. Wisconsin
Venue: Eddie C. Moore Complex
First Pitch: 9 a.m. PT
Watch: ESPNU
Talent: Mike Couzens (PxP), Kayla Braud (color)
Live Stats

GAME 5: Saturday, Feb. 20 vs. No. 5/6 Florida State
Venue: Eddie C. Moore Complex 
First Pitch: 4 p.m. PT
Watch: ESPN
Talent: Beth Mowins (PxP), Michele Smith (color)
Live Stats

UCLA competed in 2020's event, sweeping its competition with five wins, including three over top-25 teams: No. 9 Alabama on Feb. 14 (W, 7-0), No. 15 Georgia (W, 8-3) and No. 5 Florida State (W, 3-2). The Bruins sprinted out to a 25-1 record that season before the year was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Redshirt junior Aaliyah Jordan's go-ahead 2-RBI double off the left field wall in the top of the seventh inning secured UCLA's win over Florida State.

The Bruins own a 15-4 advantage in the all-time series, but the Wildcats won the most previous matchup, 7-2,  coming on Feb. 28, 2016 to snap an eight-game losing streak to UCLA. 
Auburn: Auburn leads the all-time series, 3-1, over the Bruins. UCLA earned its first win against the program on Feb. 23, 2020 with an 11-1 run-rule victory on Feb. 23, 2020 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Jacqui Prober and freshman Maya Brady each had two hits and three RBI while junior Holly Azevedo struck out three Tigers to lift UCLA to the complete-game victory.
Texas: UCLA leads Texas in the all-time series, 11-6. In the two program's last meeting, the Longhorns handed the Bruins their first and only loss of the 2020 season on Feb. 27, 6-4, in extra innings. Jordan hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the fifth inning and made an RBI-saving catch in right field in the sixth to help force extras. However, Texas' Mary Iakopo and Lauren Burke went deep back-to-back in the top of the eighth to put the game to rest.
Wisconsin: The Bruins have never lost to the Badgers, coming up victorious in all seven meetings. UCLA last played Wisconsin at the 2020 Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Feb. 22. Megan Faraimo powered the Bruins in the circle that day behind a 16-strikeout performance in seven innings of relief. With the game knotted at a run apiece in the eighth, graduate Jenavee Perez walked it off with a two-run homer to left field, 3-1.
Florida State: The two historic programs have been trading blows since they first met in the 1990 Women's College World Series. UCLA holds a slim 10-9 lead in the series after blanking Florida State, 4-0, in the first game of the 2021 Women's College World Series. Senior Rachel Garcia struck out 11 Seminoles in the complete-game shutout. The Bruins etched the first runs across the board in the bottom of the fifth inning after Kinsley Washington reach base on an infield single, advanced on an error and, one out later, rounded third and scored on a tapper up the middle by Anna Vines. Maya Brady later homered in the sixth inning with a towering shot to center field.

UCLA began the 2022 campaign outscoring its opponents 39-0 through the first three games of the season. The 39 runs were the third-most to start a season in program history (44 in 2006 and 43 in 2008). 
On Opening Night, the Bruins defeated CSUN 22-0, tying the most runs ever scored on opening day in program history (Feb. 9, 2006 vs. Sacramento State). The 22-0 win was also the first 20+ margin of victory since a 22-0 triumph over UC Riverside on Feb. 5, 2003. In the first inning of the season, UCLA exploded for 13 runs on 11 hits, including back-to-back home runs from Brady and Washington. Eight of the Bruins' nine hitters recorded an RBI in the first en route to the most runs scored in the first inning of a season-opener in program history. UCLA finished the game with five Bruins recording multiple hits and a team-total 19 hits.

Redshirt senior Holly Azevedo no-hit the Matadors in the opening night of the season to secure the first individual no-hitter of her career, striking out eight CSUN batters in 5.0 innings. Azevedo previously combined with Rachel Garcia for a no-no against Weber State on May 17, 2019. It was the ninth opening day no-hitter in UCLA history and first since Ally Carda's no-hitter against Delaware on Feb. 6, 2014. Azevedo struck out eight batters in the game and allowed three baserunners (one walk and two hit batters).

Santa Ana native and Godinez Fundamental High School product Savannah Pola is on a five-game hitting streak to begin her UCLA career. Pola, who already has three extra-base hits in 14 at-bats, is second on the squad with a .714 slugging percentage and seven RBI (min. 5 at-bats). In her first at-bat as a Bruin in the first inning versus CSUN, Pola doubled off the base of the left field wall to score a run, making it 6-0. Pola needed just four more at-bats to log the first home run of her career coming in game two against UCSD: a two-run blast to right field through the trees and onto Sunset Boulevard. In the night cap of Friday's double-header versus Nevada, Pola doubled down the left field line in her first plate appearance to score Brady and put UCLA up 2-0. Pola notched her final two RBI of the weekend against Mississippi State with a single through the left side. Pola was named to D1 Softball's Top 75 Impact Freshman List before the start of the season.

Megan Faraimo has opened the season with a 2-0 record, 0.00 earned run average and 18 strikeouts through 12.1 innings pitched. In her first start of the season, Faraimo sent nine batters down on strikes in just 5.0 innings of work. Faraimo pitched a combined 7.1 innings the next day against RV/- Mississippi State and No. 1/1 Oklahoma and allowed one unearned run to score. In relief for Lauren Shaw, Faraimo threw for 3.1 innings and five strikeouts versus the Sooners. Faraimo recorded back-to-back K's over reigning NFCA National Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo and All-American Kinzie Hansen.

Kinsley Washington is already one home run away from tying her season-high for home runs in a season of three set in 2021. Washington – the team leader with a .500 batting average, 1.000 slugging percentage and nine RBI – is also on a five-game hitting streak to begin her final campaign in Westwood. She opened the year with a 3-for-3, four-RBI performance against CSUN. Two of her hits came in just the first inning, the last of which was a homer to follow a Brady Bomb to go back-to-back and cap a 13-run first inning of the season. Her six total bases against the Matadors tied a career high formerly set versus Liberty on Feb. 15, 2020. The next day, Washington recorded a combined six total bases and five RBI with a two-run double versus UCSD and a three-run homer in the second inning versus Nevada.

After Aaliyah Jordan's bases-clearing, 3-RBI double versus Nevada in the second inning, she is now at 58 career doubles and eight away from breaking GiOnna DiSalvatore's program record (2008-11) of 65 doubles. Jordan is two doubles away from surpassing Tairia Mims (2000-03) and cracking the top three on UCLA's career doubles list.

Jordan, Faraimo and infielder Briana Perez were listed amongst 50 student-athletes on the 2022 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Watch List, the organization announced on Jan. 26. UCLA is tied with four other programs (Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Oklahoma State) with three student-athletes represented while Oklahoma leads the nation with four. The USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award – recognized as the most distinguished individual honor in NCAA Division I Softball – has been previously awarded to UCLA's Stacey Nuveman in 2002 and Rachel Garcia twice in 2018 and 2019. UCLA softball is the only program to receive the honor three times. Faraimo and Garcia (2017-21) were finalists for 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year a season ago.

UCLA led in representation at the USA Women's National Team Selection Trials from Jan. 1-6 in Vero Beach, Fla., with seven members of the program – past and present – accepting invitations. A mixture of three current Bruins (Aaliyah Jordan, Maya Brady and Megan Faraimo) and four program alumnae (Delaney Spaulding, Rachel Garcia, Bubba Nickles and Ally Carda) made up the 45-player invitee list. 
2022 USA Women's National Team: Ally Carda, Bubba Nickles and Megan Faraimo (alternate)
2022 Canada Cup Roster: Ally Carda, Megan Faraimo and Aaliyah Jordan 
2022 Japan All-Star Series Roster: Ally Carda, Megan Faraimo and Maya Brady

The reigning 2021 Pac-12 Champion UCLA Bruins were tabbed as favorites by the conference in the 2022 Pac-12 Softball Preseason Coaches Poll, receiving seven of nine first-place votes and 63 total votes to secure their spot atop the poll for the second straight season and a league-record 12th time overall. 

The Bruins lost Olympians Rachel Garcia and Bubba Nickles to graduation following the end of the 2021 season. Garcia, who was a two-time Honda Cup winner and three-time NFCA First Team All-American, is now a volunteer assistant with the San Diego State softball program working alongside Aztec head coach and former Bruin great Stacey Nuveman. Garcia posted an 18-3 record with a 1.39 earned run average last season. Garcia was second on the team with a .342 batting average in 2021, 35 runs batted in and 13 home runs. Nickles, who was a two-time Pac-12 First Team member, competed in 27 of 54 games last season. Nickles will be helping the team as a a graduate manager until March. She will be leaving to participate with Garcia in the upcoming Athletes Unlimited softball season and prepare with Team USA.

The UCLA softball program officially announced its 2022 recruiting class on Nov. 15, consisting of a group of seven world-class and decorated student-athletes that has been tabbed No. 2 nationally in Extra Inning Softball's preliminary rankings. The group features four of the top-10 recruits in the nation and all seven are within the top-25, according to Extra Inning Softball. In pitcher/infielder Taylor Tinsley (George Walton Academy), who dominated at the Premier Girls Fastpitch (PGF) National Tournament last summer, UCLA will be bringing in the top pitcher in the country, according to Softball America. The Bruins also landed the top-two most highly touted infielders in the nation with Jordan Woolery (Clayton Valley Charter) and Megan Grant (Aragon HS).