Holly Azevedo sets the tone for UCLA’s NCAA regional victory over Mississippi
Kelly Inouye-Perez called Holly Azevedo “the most disinterested Bruin”, so it’s no surprise that the pitcher doesn’t mind sharing this moment.
Azevedo lost his no-hitter with two outs in the fifth inning, but teamed up with young Megan Faraimo to raise UCLA in his eighth consecutive super regional appearance with a 9-1 rule of mercy win over Mississippi on Sunday at Easton Stadium.
The Bruin (46-8) remained unbeaten in the regional group and will host the n. 12-seeded Duke in the superregional after the Blue Devils eliminated Georgia 13-5 in an elimination match on Sunday afternoon.
Azevedo started two of UCLA’s three regional games, giving up four wins, two races and two weekend walks. Sunday’s latest hit, a tough right-hand single from Mississippi’s Paige Smith that broke what could have been Azevedo’s third no-hitter of the season, remained in the mind of the senior red jersey after the game, but not for Very.
There was a victory to celebrate.
“A lot of times, we make fun of ourselves and want to say, ‘Oh, what if, and all that stuff,” Azevedo said. “But honestly, at the end of the day, we got the win, we switched to the superregional, so I’m just happy with that.”
Azevedo was aided by her teammates in the form of nine runs in the first three innings and key defensive plays such as a double play started by third baseman Delanie Wisz to finish the second inning. Junior Anna Vines had five RBI, including her first home run of the year, to settle the offense that set the Bruins in position for a racing rule win in the fifth inning.
Azevedo easily got the first two outs of the fifth frame, but showed nerves when he gave up on his second walk of the game. A mistake by Pac-12 defender of the year Briana Perez brought Smith to the pot.
After the third baseman’s single ended Azevedo’s no-hitter, Faraimo went off the bench. Azevedo left the standing ovation of UCLA fans.
The San Jose pitcher had been waiting in the wings for years to get this moment.
Azevedo supported Olympian Rachel Garcia in 2018 but showed her talent with a 15-0 record and team honors from all Pac-12 freshmen. The following season, Faraimo, just winner of the Gatorade Award as National Player of the Year from San Diego Catholic Cathedral, became Garcia’s heir apparent. Azevedo, known for flummox hitters with her drop ball while Garcia and Faraimo thrived on their rise ball, became the third option.
Now, with no Garcia stealing the spotlight, Azevedo has his chance to shine.
“We’ve had depth in the circle and come back for its fifth year to be able to support the program, I’m so, so grateful,” said Inouye-Perez. “I love that the game is paying off.”
Azevedo, who used an additional year of eligibility granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year earned his first All-Pac-12 first-team honor of his career. She pitched two no-hitters during the regular season, including one no-no against rival Pac-12 Arizona, and entered the NCAA tournament with an ERA of 1.15, the best of her career. After starting only one post-season game in her career – a 2018 regional loss to Cal State Fullerton – Azevedo launched UCLA to her first NCAA tournament win of the season on Friday, a 12-1 win of five. innings on the Grand Canyon.
Faraimo, the Pac-12 pitcher of the year, took the circle during Saturday’s 7-1 win over Loyola Marymount.
The combination of Faraimo, who scored Sunday’s win with a strikeout, Azevedo and southpaw Lauren Shaw gave the Bruins a dynamic and versatile pitching staff that could lead the team to their 12th NCAA championship. Most teams are stepping up their pitch rotations this time of year. UCLA is happy to have opponents guess which pitcher will start.
“Rachel is not here this year and we have to rely on all of us,” Azevedo said. “She is not just a person this year. So just having the opportunity this year to help my team was a blessing. ”