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No. 6/6 UCLA Plays Five at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic

Feb 24, 2022
Taylor Stephens

LOS ANGELES – The Bruins return to the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic for the 18th time in 19 years after a hiatus last season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. No. 6/6 UCLA plays five opponents in three days, beginning with a double-header on Friday, Feb. 25 vs. RV/- Iowa State at 5:30 p.m. PT and Texas Tech at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Feb. 26, the Bruins play two more against No. 17/17 Tennessee at 3 p.m. and -/RV Baylor at 5:30 p.m. UCLA closes the weekend with an 11:30 a.m. matchup on Sunday, Feb. 27 with No. 16/19 Missouri. All games are available for streaming on FloSoftball.

GAME 1: Friday, Feb. 25 vs. RV/- Iowa State
Venue: Big League Dreams Sports Complex
First Pitch: 5:30 p.m. PT
Watch: FloSoftball
Talent: Brandon Liebhaber (PxP), Ruben Felix (color)
Live Stats

GAME 2: Friday, Feb. 25 vs. Texas Tech
Venue: Big League Dreams Sports Complex
First Pitch: 8 p.m. PT
Watch: FloSoftball
Talent: Brandon Liebhaber (PxP), Ruben Felix (color)
Live Stats

GAME 3: Saturday, Feb. 26 vs. No. 17/17 Tennessee
Venue: Big League Dreams Sports Complex
First Pitch: 3 p.m. PT
Watch: FloSoftball
Talent: Brandon Liebhaber (PxP), Ruben Felix (color)
Live Stats

GAME 4: Saturday, Feb. 26 vs. -/RV Baylor
Venue: Big League Dreams Sports Complex
First Pitch: 5:30 p.m. PT
Watch: FloSoftball
Talent: Brandon Liebhaber (PxP), Ruben Felix (color)
Live Stats

GAME 5: Sunday, Feb. 27 vs. No. 16/19 Missouri
Venue: Big League Dreams Sports Complex
First Pitch: 11:30 a.m. PT
Watch: FloSoftball
Talent: Brandon Liebhaber (PxP), Ruben Felix (color)
Live Stats

LAST TIME AT THE MARY NUTTER
The Bruins swept the 2020 competition at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic with wins over Texas A&M (9-1/6 inn.), Wisconsin (3-1/8 inn.), Florida (5-4/8 inn.) and Auburn (11-1/5 inn.). In UCLA's first walk-off win of the tournament, graduate student Jenavee Peres launched a two-run home run to left field. Against the Gators, the Bruins entered the bottom half of the eighth after a putout and outfield assist by Kelli Godin before Anna Vines scored on a walk-off wild pitch.

LAST TIME THEY MET/SERIES HISTORY
Iowa State:
The Bruins have been victorious in all three meetings with the Cyclones with their last victory coming in a 7-1 bout in 2016. A five-run sixth inning powered by the first homer of freshman Brianna Tautalafua's career helped UCLA to the win.
Texas Tech: UCLA is undefeated in the all-time series, 4-0, against the Red Raiders. This marks the first meeting between the two programs in 20 years.
Tennessee: The Bruins have a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series over the Volunteers. Their last meeting came at the Mary Nutter in 2013 in which sophomore Ally Carda and freshman Paige McDuffee combined on a two-hit shutout over then-No. 4 Tennessee for the 2-0 win.
Baylor: UCLA leads the all-time series, 4-3. The Bruins lost their most recent matchup with the Bears, 11-6, in 2017.
Missouri: The Bruins own a 19-4 advantage in the all-time series. The two programs last met for three games in the NCAA Regionals at Easton Stadium in the Bruins' 2019 national title run. UCLA notched mercy-rule victories in two games of that series while dropping the other. Junior Bubba Nickles recorded a pair of 5-RBI performances in the two wins, including a two-run homer and a grand slam in the series opener.

RECAPPING ST. PETE/CLEARWATER ELITE INVITATIONAL
UCLA went 3-2 in its return to the Tampa Bay metro area with ranked victories over No. 9 Texas and No. 25 Auburn. The Bruins dropped the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational finale to Florida State, 4-3, in extra innings on ESPN. Despite a three-extra-base-hit performance by Kinsley Washington, the Bruins were dealt a blow in game one of the tournament by No. 23 Northwestern's Maeve Nelson walk-off, three-run homer. UCLA rallied with back-to-back-to-back homers by Kinsley Washington, Savannah Pola and Aaliyah Jordan in the sixth inning of game two versus No. 25 Auburn to secure the 9-0 win. Megan Faraimo went the distance in Saturday's night cap versus the Longhorns and would only need Aaliyah Jordan's solo blast off the right-field scoreboard for run support. In Sunday's appetizer versus Wisconsin, Holly Azevedo's five no-hit frames and seven strikeouts and a five-run second inning with a pair of 2-RBI doubles from Washington and Briana Perez guided the Bruins to a 5-1 victory. Florida State came out on top, 4-3, in an instant extra-inning classic. Anna Vines and Lauryn Carter – who earned her first start of the season – each hit a double in the left-and-right-center gaps, respectively, in the top of the second to give UCLA an early 2-0 lead. After the Seminoles took the lead, Kinsley Washington hit her fifth homer of the season and third of the tournament to knot things up, 3-3, in the fifth.

KINSLEY WASHINGTON: CERTIFIED SLUGGER
After recording nine RBI in week one, Kinsley Washington extended her hitting streak to 10 games after reaching base safely in all five games in Clearwater. Washington has now recorded multiple hits and multiple RBI in five contests. Entering the weekend, Washington needed just one home run to tie a season high of three homers in a single season. Washington blasted a home run to dead center in her third at-bat versus Northwestern following a double and triple in her two previous plate appearances, setting a new career high of nine total bases in a game (previous was six vs. Liberty on Feb. 15, 2020) and matching her season-high of homers just six games into 2022. She finished the game 3-for-4 and a single shy of the cycle. Washington finished the weekend with four more extra-base hits, including two home runs versus No. 25 Auburn and No. 5 Florida State to bring her within one home run of doubling her previous season-high of home runs just ten games into the season. Washington ranks second in the Pac-12 in batting average (.531), home runs (5), RBI (16), hits (17) and is tied for fifth with 11 runs scored. The last time a Bruin had five home runs through the first 10 games of the season was in 2020 when Maya Brady burst onto the scene in her freshman campaign. Washington has recorded an extra-base hit in eight of UCLA's 10 games this season.

DEFENSE ON DISPLAY
The Bruins made a series of highlight plays in St. Pete/Clearwater last weekend, including two plays by Thessa Malau'ulu and Briana Perez that were featured in D1Softball's Top 10 Plays of the Week. The Web Gems began with Maya Brady's diving grab in center field after being shifted in the third inning versus Auburn. Against Texas, shortstop Briana Perez spun to her right, and in an instant, leaped to the air to snag the first out of the game. Third baseman Thessa Malau'ulu crashed hard in on a bunting Longhorn and laid out for the putout to end the very next inning. Against Wisconsin, Briana Perez once again made a highlight reel snag, springing directly into the air from her feet to make a full-extension, sno-cone grab at shortstop.

HOLLY AZEVEDO'S HOT START
Holly Azevedo compiled 13.2 innings of work over three games last weekend, allowing just three hits and two unearned runs. She now leads the Bruins with a 0.34 earned run average. Azevedo established a new career high of ten strikeouts in her first start of the weekend against Auburn en route to earning the complete-game victory. Azevedo – who threw the first solo no-hitter of her career on Opening Night versus CSUN – tossed five more no-hit innings in her second start of the week against Wisconsin on Sunday. In her first relief appearance of the season, Azevedo shut the door on No. 5 Florida State later that day after entering in the fourth inning. Azevedo induced a ground ball to get out of the fourth, and in the fifth she picked up back-to-back strikeouts against the Seminoles' second and third hitters in the lineup: Jahni Kerr and Mack Leonard. Azevedo would strike out two more Noles and hold Florida State hitless until the eighth inning when Florida State scored the game-winning run off a double to left.

SWINGIN' SAVI
Santa Ana native and Godinez Fundamental High School product Savannah Pola opened her UCLA career on a seven-game hitting streak before it was snapped versus Texas on Saturday. Pola, who had three extra-base and seven RBI in 14 at-bats in week one, picked up three more extra-base hits in St. Pete/Clearwater, including the first triple of her career versus Northwestern. Pola ranks third on the team with 19 total bases and a .690 slugging percentage. Pola went deep for the second time of the early season in the sixth inning versus Auburn on Saturday to help usher along a series of three straight homers for the Bruins. Pola was named to D1 Softball's Top 75 Impact Freshman List before the start of the season.

MATERIAL GIRL, AALIYAH JORDAN
Before leaving the Texas game with a left leg injury, Aaliyah Jordan brought the boom with two doubles and two home runs to highlight the Bruins' offense in St. Pete/Clearwater, finishing the weekend with an RBI in each of the three games she played. Jordan recorded two doubles to surpass Tairia Mims for third place on UCLA's all-time doubles list with 60. Jordan now trails GiOnna DiSalvatore's program-record 65 doubles by just five. For Jordan's first of two hits versus Texas, she blasted a home run off the right field scoreboard which proved to be the only run support Megan Faraimo would need in her complete-game gem.

THREE BRUINS NAMED TO THE PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH 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.

THE BRUIN BUBBLE FEELING PATRIOTIC
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

PAC-12 FAVORITES
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. 

KEY DEPARTURES
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.

NO. 2 RECRUITING CLASS FOR 2023
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).