Back on January 22nd when I posted my prediction for this year’s D1 champions I picked UCLA to win it all. I did have it wrong though who they’d play. I thought they would be going up against Florida. But on Tuesday night my prediction came true as they won game two of the series to sweep Oklahoma and win the 2019 softball championship.
It looked like this WCWS would be a tough one for UCLA as they would have to face number one seed Oklahoma who was going for their 3rd title in 4 years, while the Bruins, who now lead all teams with 12 NCAA softball championships hadn’t won one since 2010. UCLA showed in game one though that they were hungry and ready to reclaim their title as the best D1 softball team in the country winning game one by a score of 16-3.
Coming in to game two it was time for Oklahoma to stand up or get eliminated. The Sooner players answered the call and came ready to go in game two. The game was a back and forth event with UCLA taking an early 2-0 lead in the first inning but Oklahoma scored one run in the top of the third. UCLA answered right back though scoring a run. Oklahoma didn’t give up though scoring two more runs in the top of the 4th inning to pull even with UCLA again 3-3. In the bottom of the 5th UCLA took the lead back scoring another run. Oklahoma scored in the 7th inning making it even at 4-4. The Bruins though were determined to get the win scoring in the bottom of the seventh to get the 5-4 win. The winning hit was a single to left field by Kinsley Washington that brought pinch runner Jacqui Prober in beating the throw to home plate. Rachael Garcia got the win while G. Juarez took the loss for the Sooners. The game had an attendance of 8373.
UCLA was around the top of the rankings all season long. One of the main reason for that was Rachael Garcia. She’s a player that you can build a team around. She not only has a great pitching arm she is also a terror to opposing pitcher’s in the batter’s box. Garcia finished the season hitting .343BA with 11 home runs and 57RBIs. Those are numbers any power hitter would be happy with. In the circle she is just as good ending the season 29-1 with a 1.14ERA along with 286 strikeouts in her 202 innings pitched.
Garcia wasn’t alone though UCLA also had two other strong pitchers, Megan Faraimo (16-4) and Holly Azevedo(11-1), that on another team would have been the lead aces but with Garcia found their places as the number 2&3 starters.
Garcia’s humbleness shown when Faraimo first joined the team and told Garcia she had her back. Instead of accepting that Garcia told her I don’t want you to just have my back I want you to do your best to beat me out and become the number one pitcher on the team.
Even with good pitching you still need good fielding and offensive power to win games and UCLA had both of those fronts covered. Offense comes from players like, Bubba Nickles, .390BA, 18HR 72RBIs, Aaliyah Jordan, .383BA, 13HR, 61RBIs, Briana Perez, .383BA, 7HR, 45RBIs and Taylor Pack, .369BA, 12HR, 50RBIs, who all have very impressive batting numbers.
Speed on the bases come in the form of Kelli Godin who went 23-26 on stolen base attempts and Briana Perez who went 21-22.
In 2019 the Bruins had a fielding percentage of .974 while their opponents was, .948. They ended the season with 42 errors, most of them coming from Briana Perez who had 15 this year.
It didn’t matter where the team played they won this season. In Pac-12 season play they went 20-4 and were co-champions with Washington.They ended their season with a 56-6 overall record 23-4 playing at home, 14-1 for away games and 19-1at neutral sites.
While the team will be losing several impact players, ( Stevie Wisz, Taylor Pack, Brianna Tautalafua, Zoe Shaw, Paige Halstead), to graduation for next season as long as they have Rachael Garcia they should be okay and in a strong position to defend their title and build on the UCLA softball dynasty.