No. 4 UCLA Hosts No. 9 Arizona to Start Pac-12 Play
LOS ANGELES – The No. 4/3 UCLA softball team begins conference play with a three-game set at Easton Stadium against long-time rival No. 9/16 Arizona. Game one between the Bruins (22-3) and Wildcats (19-4) is scheduled for Saturday, March 19 at 5 p.m. PT. Games two and three of the series both have first pitch times of 12 p.m. PT on Sunday, March 20 and Monday, March 21. All games will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks and are available for listening on ucla.leanplayer.com.
UCLA won last season's series with Arizona in the 2021 Pac-12 regular season finale. The Bruins clinched the program's 11th Pac-12 title in game two behind a complete-game, 10-strikeout effort by Megan Faraimo and two home runs by Rachel Garcia and Delanie Wisz. Kinsley Washington blew the doors open with a three-run homer in game four to help UCLA take the rubber game.
UCLA and Arizona rank No. 1 and No. 2 all-time in NCAA championships with 12 and eight, respectively. The Bruins and Wildcats traded championship seasons throughout the 1990s and 2000s with UCLA winning rings in 1990, 1992, 1999, 2003 and 2004 and Arizona in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2007. The two programs have met in the postseason 17 times (UCLA leads 9-8) and in the Women's College World Series finale on seven occasions (Arizona leads 5-2).
BACK-TO-BACK PERFECT GAMES
Lauren Shaw (2.0 IP) and Megan Faraimo (3.0 IP) combined to throw the 21st total perfect game in UCLA history against Pennsylvania last Thursday. The very next game against CSU Bakersfield, Faraimo retired all 15 Roadrunner batters on strikes to throw back-to-back perfectos and the third solo perfect game of her career. Faraimo needed just 59 pitches (52 strikes) to achieve perfection against the Roadrunners, throwing only seven balls, the first of which coming to the third batter in the third inning. Faraimo opened the game with 30 consecutive strikes on the way to recording UCLA's 22nd perfect game in program history. These two performances come on the heels of Megan Faraimo's perfect game versus Fresno State on Thursday, March 3. The Bruins have thrown their three perfect games this season (tying a record set in 1985 for most in a season) all within eight days of each other. Before this season, the previous smallest margin of time between perfect games was 1982 (Debbie Doom vs. Wyoming on May 15 and Tracy Compton/Debbie Doom combined vs. Western Michigan on May 29).
MEGAN FARAIMO PERFECT AGAIN (and AGAIN)
Faraimo now ranks second all-time in UCLA history behind Debbie Doom in both solo perfect games with three and total perfect games with four (Doom threw five solo and six total). Faraimo finished the weekend striking out 26 of the 27 batters she faced on 107 total pitches, averaging 3.96 pitches per batter. The other recorded out was a ground ball that fluttered to Kinsley Washington at first base. Faraimo now leads the Pac-12 with 132 strikeouts, a 12.66 strikeout per seven innings ratio and 73.0 innings pitched. She ranks second with nine wins.
In addition to Faraimo, the Bruins' pitching staff bolsters the current Pac-12 wins leader in redshirt senior Holly Azevedo (10-1 record) and earned run average leader in lefty graduate Lauren Shaw (0.50). Azevedo has now reached 10 wins in three of her five seasons in Westwood, last reaching the mark in 2019 when she finished with an 11-1 record. Azevedo ranks second behind Faraimo in strikeout per seven innings this season at 10.99. Azevedo's season-best 6.80 K/7 ratio came in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Faraimo and Azevedo both notched their 50th career wins earlier this season to become the 17th and 18th pitchers in UCLA's illustrious history of hurlers to reach the milestone. As a team, the Bruins lead the Pac-12 with 238 strikeouts in 154.0 innings and a 10.82 K/7 ratio. Oregon State is next closest with 236 strikeouts in 17 more innings of work than UCLA.
BRIANA PEREZ NAMED PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Redshirt senior shortstop Briana Perez earned the first Pac-12 Player of the Week honor of her career on Monday after going 10-for-12 last weekend (.833 batting average) with 15 RBI, three homers, two triples and a double. Perez has now homered in three straight games, bringing her season-total to seven. She ranks fifth on the squad in that category. Perez earned two Pac-12 Freshmen of the Week honors in 2018. With the help of three straight multi-hit games, Perez saw her batting average skyrocket from .316, ranking eighth on the team before last weekend, to .406. Five of Perez's six extra-base hits came with runners on base, tripling versus Pennsylvania on Thursday to knock two in, doubling with the bases loaded versus CSU Bakersfield on Friday to knock all three in, a two-run homer versus Fresno State on Saturday and another two-run homer as well as a three-run triple versus CSU Bakersfield in the night cap to tie a career-high five RBI. In her last 10 games, Perez is leading the Bruins with a .577 batting average, 18 RBI and a 1.346 slugging percentage (min.15 at-bats). Perez has homered five times in that stretch.
PEREZ NEARING HISTORY
Perez's 11 runs and five stolen bases last weekend moved her into second place on both UCLA's all-time runs scored and stolen bases lists. She trails Bruin legend Natasha Watley in both categories. Perez, who has 238 career runs under her belt, is 14 away from tying Watley. Perez is averaging 1.04 runs scored per game in her career while Watley averaged 1.00. Perez surpassed Allexis Bennett for sole possession of second place on the steals list with 66 in her career. Watley holds a lofty lead for first place with 158 career stolen bases.
POLA FILLS A BIG ROLE
Freshmen Savannah Pola has been penciled in at the No. 3 spot in the Shelly Carlin UCLA Head Softball Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez's lineup card for the past 16 games since redshirt senior Aaliyah Jordan went down with a left knee injury. Since that adjustment, Pola has led the Bruins with a .444 batting average and ranked second with 21 RBI. Pola currently leads the conference with 11 doubles and all Pac-12 freshmen with 29 hits and 29 RBI. Pola had her best week to date at the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament, going 8-for-14 with two doubles and a home run.
KINSLEY WASHINGTON IN THE LEADOFF SPOT
Redshirt senior Kinsley Washington leads the Pac-12 with 30 runs scored and paces the Bruins with a .432 batting average as the team's leadoff hitter. Washington surpassed her previous season-high for homers of three in 2021 just six games into this season as well as her previous season-high for extra-base hits of 14 in 2019 in less than half of those games played (62 GP in 2019/25 GP in 2022).
DELANIE WISZ: CERTIFIED BOPPER
In addition to being the battery mate to Faraimo's two perfect games, redshirt senior Delanie Wisz has found her groove the last 10 games hitting five of her six homers and knocking in 15 of her 24 RBI on the season in that stretch. Wisz has reached base safely in 16 consecutive games and every game of the Bruins' 15-game winning streak. Before her hitless effort versus CSU Bakersfield on March 12 (only one at-bat and a walk), Wisz had recorded in RBI in 10 consecutive games, including four multi-RBI performances.