Heading into the regionals, #2 UCLA’s (Overall 41-4, Conference 19-2) only losses were to teams in the top 12 (Oregon (2), Washington, Arizona). The conference schedule was rugged playing 4 games each weekend. 5 of 7 conference series were against teams in the playoffs. The Bruins won 21/25 games against teams in the playoffs. UCLA had the #2 RPI with 5 Pac-12 teams in the top 20.
Pitching will be the absolute strength of this team. The team ERA (Overall 1.17, Conference 1.06) was better than 2019 (1.43) and 2020 (1.20) and is currently ranked #1 in the NCAA. Rachel Garcia (14-0 0.60 ERA) and Megan Faraimo (17-3, 1.19 ERA) are ranked #1 and #2 in the Pac-12 and will probably rotate starts with Holly Azevedo (8-1 1.74 ERA) and Lexi Sosa (2021 2-0, 2.33 ERA) providing relief.
The Bruins battling injury and illness (non-Covid) were fortunate to have depth but combined with the Covid cancellations caused issues with the offensive progression. It took half the season develop a rhythm (overall .329 BA, 6.5 Runs/Game, Conference .306 BA, 5.5 Runs/Game) but still wound-up Pac-12 #1 batting average, #1 OB% and #2 SLG.
It is unknown whether Bubba Nickles will be available. She was not in uniform for the Arizona series and camera shots in the dugout showed her favoring her injured left wrist.
Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez settled on Aaliyah Jordan (Conference .455 OB%, .300 BA, .667 SLG) to replace her in the lead off spot followed by Briana Perez (.286 BA), Rachel Garcia (.291 BA, .764 SLG), Delanie Wisz (.323 BA, .677 SLG) and Maya Brady (.400 BA, .855 SLG). Anna Vines (.375 BA), Thessa Malau ulu (.185 BA) and Alissa Garcia (.263 BA) platoon the next two spots depending on who is pitching. Kinsley Washington (.294 BA) and Kelli Godin (.311 BA) round out the lineup. Julie Rodriguez (.200 BA) has emerged as the go to pinch hitter.
The Bruins defense (2020 .974 Field %, 16 Errors, 2021 .976 Field %, 13 Errors) looks to be equivalent to last year despite the constant changes and ranked Pac-12 #3 in Fld %. Delanie Wisz is Coach Perez’s wild card. Depending on the pitching rotation, Wisz (.965 Fld %, .500 CS%) will start at catcher, 1st, or 3rd. The infield is anchored by Briana Perez (.953 Fld%) at short. Kinsley Washington (1.000 Fld %) will play 1st or 2nd. Anna Vines (.947 Fld%) will play 2nd, Thessa Malau’ulu (1.000 Fld%) is a human highlight reel at 3rd and Alyssa Garcia (.991 Fld%, .714 CS%) is clearly our best catcher.
Kelli Godin (1.000 Fld%) has started every game in Left and Maya Brady (1.000 Fld%) moved to center when Bubba Nickles got hurt. Aaliyah Jordan (.875 Fld%) is playing in right with Seneca Curo (1.000 Fld %) as the defensive substitution.
UCLA added 4 freshmen to the roster. Thessa Malau'ulu made the most contributions with 23 starts and 34 appearances. Grace Guzman (23, 9 R) and Lauryn Carter (14, 9 R) have contributed mostly as pinch runners although Carter hit a home run in one of her 2 pinch-hit at bats.
LA Regional Opponents
Long Beach St. (30-9, 22-2)
#2 UCLA’s (41-4, 19-2) first opponent Long Beach St. is a familiar one. The two teams often play fall exhibition games. The Bruins swept a double header (5-1, 10-2 (5)) at Long Beach St. earlier in the year. UCLA pitching shut down The Beach as Rachel Garcia and Holly Azevedo combined (1.75 ERA, .167 OBA) for 2 complete game victories.
Long Beach St. relies on a pair of pitchers. Kellie White (16-6, 1.94 ERA) and Shannon Haddad (8-0, 205 ERA). In her last game against the Bruins, White (6 Innings, 5 H, 5 R, 8 BB, 4 K, 2 WP) pitched well until the 4th when the UCLA lineup came around to bat again. Garcia (7 Innings, 4 H, R, 4 BB, 10 K, WP) was solid yielding a single run in the bottom of the 7th. The UCLA Offense (5/24, 5 R, 5 RBI, 9 BB, 2 BOE, TRP) squandered multiple opportunities hitting into 2 double plays, one runner caught stealing and stranding 5 runners.
Long Beach St. has 7 starters batting over .300 with 3 batting over .400. The top of The Beach line up is extremely potent. Naomi Hernandez (.400 BA, .500 OB%) and Lilyanna Martinez (.351 BA, .431 OB%) excel at getting on base to set up power hitters Alyssa Gonzalez (.418 BA, .648 SLG), Suzy Brookshire (.417 BA, .791 SLG) and Breezy Wise (.381 BA, .690 SLG)
Fresno St. (36-10, 20-4)
UCLA opened the season with a 7-0 victory against Fresno St. Aaliyah Jordan and Maya Brady were not in the lineup for this game. The first six batters reached base as the Bruins batted around in the bottom of the 1st. UCLA scored 6 runs on 5 hits and a walk including a leadoff homerun by Bubba Nickles and a two-run home run by Rachel Garcia. Starter Megan Faraimo (6 innings 1 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 13 K) and Lexi Sosa (1 inning, 0 H) combined for a 1 hit shutout.
Hailey Dolcini (21-4, 1.01 ERA) is the Bulldog’s ace. When she last faced the Bruins, Dolcini (0 Innings, 4 H, 4 R) was chased before she could record an out.
Fresno St.’s has 6 starters batting over .300, but they were held to 1 hit in their game against the Bruins.
Note: Maya Brady’s mom was a 1994 All-American pitcher at Fresno State.
Minnesota (29-11, 29-11)
In 2019, UCLA beat Minnesota 7-2 in the first game of the college world series. Rachel Garcia (7 Innings, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K) out pitched Gophers’ ace Amber Fiser (5 2/3 Innings, 8 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 6 K). Bubba Nickles and Aaliyah Jordan hit home runs. In 2020, UCLA beats Minnesota 4-0 behind a 2-hit shutout by Megan Faraimo (7 innings, 13K) and a grand slam home run by Delanie Wisz.
In 2021, Minnesota played games within the conference only. Autumn Pease (11-2, 1.63 ERA) and Amber Fiser (15-8, 2.19 ERA) started every game for Minnesota. The Gopher lineup is top heavy. Their first 4 hitters are batting over .300 and produce most of their offense. They are led by Natalie Den Hartog (.319 BA, .731 SLG, 13 HR, 5 SB).
Next Game: Long Beach St
May 21 (Fri) 7:30 p.m.