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Megan Faraimo's Heroics Help UCLA Softball Open Super Regionals With Win Over Duke

The Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year retired the final 14 Blue Devils while also driving in the game-tying and go-ahead runs in the sixth.

Megan Faraimo had retired 11 straight Blue Devils from the circle, but she suddenly found herself in the batter's box with the game on the line.

The Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year entered as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth down by one with two outs and runners on second and third. The Bruins had come up short in their first five at-bats with runners in scoring position, and coach Kelly Inouye-Perez decided all they needed to do to change the tides was send their ace – a .196 hitter entering Friday – to the plate.

"That's a situation I prepare for all the time," Faraimo said. "In that moment, all my team was just telling me 'Think oppo, just think opposite field' ... so I was gonna do whatever I could to get the ball on that side of the field."

Faraimo did get it to the opposite field, driving in both runners with a two-RBI single to right to give the blue and gold their first lead of the night.

It was, of course, up to Faraimo to close it out back in her usual spot. She did just that, striking out the first two and forcing a fly ball to end the game and lock up the win.

Faraimo's two-way success in clutch moments put No. 5 seed UCLA softball (47-8, 19-5 Pac-12) up 1-0 in the best-of-three NCAA Super Regionals, beating No. 12 seed Duke (44-9, 19-3 ACC) 3-2 in game one at Easton Stadium. The end result – and especially Faraimo's place in it – was a far cry from how the contest started, as the Blue Devils actually had the Bruins beat through the first few frames.

"They did throw the first punch, but like I told the Bruins, it doesn't really matter who throws the first punch," Inouye-Perez said. "We're gonna have the opportunity to throw the last punch."

Duke turned a leadoff walk into a run via a double later in the first inning. UCLA threatened to even the score – or even claim the lead – in the bottom half of the first with a pair of singles from the top of their lineup, only for the next three Bruins went down in order.

The Blue Devils got another one-out extra-base hit in the second, this time in the form of a solo home run to left. The Bruins, on the other hand, could only muster up a walk their next time up and ended the second down 2-0.

Faraimo gave up two singles to open the third, but UCLA's defense came through to prevent any more damage. Senior shortstop Briana Perez made a long-ranging snag on a pop up down the third base line for out No. 1, then she sparked an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

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"My team is where I get all my energy from," Faraimo said. "When they make plays like that, it just fires me up. ... Having Bri as a shortstop – the best shortstop in the country, I think – is such an honor."

The offense seemed to take the torch from there, with senior first baseman Kinsley Washington leading things off with an infield single that fed right into a double by Perez. Washington tried scoring from first on the line drive to right, though, and the throw beat her there by several strides to keep the Bruins scoreless.

Still pitching from behind on the scoreboard, Faraimo struck out two in the fourth and got animated coming off the mound. The Bruins' offense again failed to feed off of that momentum, only getting one runner on base before back-to-back fielder's choices and a groundout left them scoreless for the fourth frame in a row.

A one-out single in the fifth by Washington looked like it would go similarly wasted after a Perez fly out, but senior catcher Delanie Wisz finally ended the shutout with an RBI double into the right-center gap. The deficit was suddenly cut in half, even if Brady grounded out to first for her third inning-ending at-bat.

"Lanie is a calm, confident hitter," Inouye-Perez said. "You may get her out, but there's a reason she's hitting for a high average. You can get her out a couple times, but then she is almost due for that hit."

Sophomore designated player Alyssa Garcia led off the sixth with a single and got pinch ran for by freshman Lauren Hatch, who was immediately thrown out at second on a fielder's choice. Junior second baseman Anna Vines drew a walk and sophomore third baseman Thessa Malau'ulu picked up a sacrifice to make it second and third.

That's when Faraimo came in and delivered the game-tying and go-ahead runs, re-sparking an offense that had been dormant for most of the night. Without much run support, she simply took matters into her own hands and gave herself the lead she needed to close out the win on the other side.

After opening the game 4-for-9 at the plate, the Blue Devils didn't get another runner aboard for the rest of the contest. Faraimo was perfect to close things out from the circle, finishing with 10 strikeouts in 7.0 innings pitched.

UCLA and Duke will face off in game two of the Los Angeles Super Regional on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The Bruins can advance to the Women's College World Series with a win, while the Blue Devils need to win to stay alive and force a third game Sunday.

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