Another summer trip to the Women’s College World Series, and another disappointment. Defeated in the super-regionals, the UCLA Bruins softball team once again watched someone else win the title.
That’s not to say they didn’t have a great season. Of course they did! They made the WCWS for the fourth year in a row. Still, it’s frustrating that a program that’s so powerful can’t seem to break into the final level and become champions.
However, there’s a lot to hope for. Here’s what we have to celebrate through the 2018 season. Want to have even more fun? Read more about how softball trading pins can enhance your enjoyment of the game.
Rachel Garcia Will Be Back
What an incredible show from an incredible young woman! She dominated this year as both a hitter and a pitcher. In fact, it was probably her fatigue in the final game, causing her to have to step out in the early innings, that led to UCLA’s final loss.
Garcia won a lot of awards this year, from the Honda Award at the Collegiate Women’s Sports Awards to being named the NFCA, USA Softball and ESPNW National Player of the Year. She was also named an NFCA First Team All-American, along with many other honors.
The best news? She was only a sophomore! She’ll be back to help the Bruins keep their ERA ridiculously low (only 1.31 this year) and belting the hits that created a 29-4 record for the Bruins this year.
Garcia pitched 23 of the Bruins' 27 innings in the WCWS, recording 42 strikeouts, a pair of wins and three complete games. That incredible stamina and precision will be back in the blue and gold for another season.
A Third Place Finish in the WCWS
No one likes to finish anything other than first, of course. However, why not celebrate the incredible record the Bruins posted this season?
Under Kelly Inouye-Perez, UCLA has been doing very well each year in their postseason performance. The third-place finish in the WCWS is the best Inouye-Perez has done during her tenure, and we can continue to expect great performances from this team.
Frankly, UCLA had a great shot to move ahead and make the WCWS final. The Bruins beat Florida State once, but wasn’t able to do it again. Unfortunately the last game looked quite bad from a scoring perspective, owing primarily to the fact that Garcia wasn’t able to pitch deep into that game.
But the Bruins were third, which is certainly something to celebrate and build on!
A Lot of Comeback Games Show Grit
There’s a reason a lot of news stories during the postseason talked about UCLA as "comeback kids." There were a ton of times the team was down and still rallied to win the game.
It takes a lot of mental strength to say, "Hey, we still have a long game in front of us." No matter how much you’re down, it’s vital to not get discouraged or frustrated. The Bruins softball team believes in each other and in their ability to win.
The power to come back no matter what the circumstances are is an incredible asset to any team, and carried the Bruins to a third-place WCWS finish. What can it do as the players continue to grow and mature over time?
Who knows? But it will certainly be exciting to watch, and gives us a lot to celebrate right now.
Much of the Roster Will Be Returning
One thing that’s very difficult for sports fans is when their favorite team does extremely well, and then half (or more) of the roster graduates.
Or, perhaps you don’t lose a lot of players, but the ones that are gone are the keys, the leaders, the ones that give the team its passion and grit. Either way, you’re looking at a long, difficult season ahead as the team finds it feet again with new leaders.
Fortunately for the Blue and Gold, they won’t be facing that next year. Rachel Garcia is the biggest face of the team, and has two more years in a UCLA jersey. In fact, there were only five seniors on this year’s roster.
That’s not to say we won’t miss those players. Kylee Perez, a senior this last year, was an outstanding infielder and an incredible young woman. The fact that she played with power despite her struggle with Type 1 Diabetes is a testament to her strong spirit.
The determination she displayed will be missed on the softball field next year. Her batting average of .590 during her college career is nothing to sneeze at either!
Selina Ta’amilo and Johanna Grauer are two pitchers that will also be missed. They both had below-2.9 ERAs this year, with Ta’amilo going 14-0 and Grauer 11-4. They both pitched multiple complete games this year, and that production will be missed in 2019.
Of course, as players leave, new ones arrive – who knows what new talent the Bruins will be able to recruit now that they’ve done well in the WCWS for four years in a row?
A Lot to Look Forward to in 2019
The Bruins softball team and its fans have a lot to look forward to next year. You can expect continued development from freshman, including Kylee’s sister Briana Perez, who is also an infielder.
I’d expect another deep run in the postseason as well. There’s no reason UCLA can’t go back to the WCWS, and maybe this time they’ll be able to get to the final game and win!