[Rochard]UCLA softball’s Megan Faraimo tosses shutout in win over Virginia Tech

  This post was updated May 28 at 9:53 p.m.

  The Bruins relied on their All-Pac-12 talent to keep their season alive.

  One loss away from elimination, No. 2 seed UCLA softball (45-5, 19-2 Pac-12) forced a winner-take-all game three in its Super Regional series against Virginia Tech (37-14, 23-11 ACC) after picking up a 2-0 win Friday night at Easton Stadium.

  Despite having three-time Pac-12 Player of the Year and redshirt senior pitcher Rachel Garcia available to pitch, coach Kelly Inouye-Perez gave redshirt sophomore Megan Faraimo the start in the circle. The All-Pac-12 First Team pitcher answered the call by pitching a one-hit shutout for the Bruins while striking out 11 Hokie hitters.

  Inouye-Perez said the decision to pitch Faraimo was based on both pitchers’ performances in yesterday’s game.

  “(Faraimo) matched up well (last night),” Inouye-Perez said. “Last night, defensively, we fell apart, (and) Rachel wasn’t on her A-game. I’ve had confidence in both Megan and Rachel, but, last night, Megan was more effective than Rachel and it showed today.”

  One night after striking out the first six UCLA hitters she faced, Virginia Tech pitcher Keely Rochard looked the part again, fanning the first four Bruin batters.

  But then UCLA’s fifth hitter – redshirt freshman utility Maya Brady – ended Rochard’s strikeout streak. The All-Pac-12 First Team member hit a home run to right-center field to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead with one out in the top of the second inning.

  “Rochard’s an amazing pitcher, and she has so much movement on her ball,” Brady said. “I wasn’t really looking to hit a home run, I really just wanted to get on for my team. It ended up being a home run so that’s always nice when it’s effortless like that.”

  Defending the Bruins’ first lead of the series, Faraimo struck out the side in the bottom of the second frame. The 1-2-3 inning was the first of the series for UCLA’s pitching staff after allowing 11 hits to go along with five errors that helped the Hokies reach base every inning Thursday.

  For the second straight inning, an All-Pac-12 First Teamer boosted the Bruin offense with a single swing. Redshirt junior outfielder Aaliyah Jordan led off the top of the third with her own solo shot to right-center field to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

  Faraimo said the run support gave her added confidence the rest of the game.

  “As a pitcher, I try to tell myself it’s a 0-0 game, but getting those two runs was huge,” Faraimo said. “I’m super proud of the Bruins, that we’re able to do that. It just gives me a lot of confidence, and all I got to do then is get us back in the dugout.”

  Though a fourth-inning single ended her no-hit bid, Faraimo did not allow a Virginia Tech hitter to reach second base for the entirety of the game. The Hokies reached base one more time in the sixth thanks to a two-out walk, but the 2020 Softball America Pitcher of the Year immediately responded with her 10th strikeout of the game.

  The Bruins offense didn’t register a single base runner in the final four innings of the game, but the two solo home runs and four total hits were enough for Faraimo. The No. 2 pitcher for UCLA closed the game out in the seventh frame with her fourth 1-2-3 inning of her shutout performance.

  After being a part of her first Super Regional win of her career, Brady said the culture behind the UCLA program has the team in a good place heading into Saturday.

  “We talk about playing the UCLA softball brand because this school and this program is so historic,” Brady said. “Our team is really on a special road right now, and we’re in a really good place. Hopefully, we can carry that into tomorrow.”

  With the win, the Bruins will take on the Hokies on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Easton Stadium. The winner of that matchup will punch their ticket to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.