By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
Early in the spring the UCLA softball players were practicing at Easton Stadium under the watchful eye of Head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. During batting practice team newcomer Delanie Wisz hit a ball so hard it went and knocked the A in Easton off the fixture and it just waggled back and forth. That was just a practice but it set the tone for the season as the Bruins would open up pre-season play in a couple of days.
Veteran Assistant coach Lisa Fernandez was in the circle working with Lexi Sosa during a combined batting practice simulated game. At one point the freshman began to wind-up then stopped, the umpire stepped from behind a home plate.
“Was that an illegal pitch,” shouted Inouye-Perez. “Yes that’s why I stepped out,” said the umpire.
“We can’t have that, those are the things we have to correct now.” said the Bruin coach. Correct them they did as the got off to a blazing start. They reeled off 25 wins in 26 games. They won in San Diego, Cathedral City, Clearwater Florida, and the won at home (12-1). During the run they had 13 shutouts won by the run rule 12 times. Also included in that Sosa pitched the 18th perfect game in UCLA history. After the only loss to then #3 ranked Texas they won another 10 straight. They did all this without two of its top players Rachael Garcia and Bubba Nickles who are playing with Team USA. They were ranked #2 in the Nation.
It was a few days before they were to begin league play when the “stoppage” happened. The PAC-12 canceled all conference conference and non-conference sporting activities until the end of the school year due to the COVID 19 virus.
“My heart dropped,” said Inouye-Perez. The Bruins had a meeting earlier in the week and the school had announced a fan ban in all sports. Then the NCAA dropped a “nuclear” when it announce the cancellation of all spring sports and Championships. That means the team had no shot at defending its National Title. “It’s dream breaking I saw a whole different Bruin team, they were deflated they were emotional,” she added.
The Bruins had worked hard in their practices, not only players but the Coaches Fernandez and Kirk Walker. They were always giving instructions preparing them for how to handle different game situations, things they should be aware of.
When this season was “stopped” it was something no one could prepare for.