Rachel Garcia leads UCLA softball into NCAA Tournament

Rachel Garcia won the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award while helping UCLA softball to a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy Katie Meyers)

Kelly Inouye-Perez knows great pitchers. The former UCLA catcher and current UCLA softball head coach won three NCAA titles as a player and caught games for Bruin legends Lisa Longaker and Lisa Fernandez who combined for seven first-team All-American honors.

So when Inouye-Perez says her newest ace Rachel Garcia reminds her a bit of Fernandez, it’s not just hyperbole.

“No one really got comfortable in the box with Lisa (Fernandez) pitching,” Inouye-Perez said. “It was her presence and ability to attack hitters really aggressively that put them in that position. Rachel is very similar.”

Garcia is possibly the next great UCLA pitcher as the redshirt freshman leads the Bruins into postseason play this weekend. .

More on Garcia, who will start against Lehigh on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Easton Stadium.

Scouting the Los Angeles Regional field:

  • Big West champ Cal State Fullerton is greater than the sum of its parts
  • Lehigh Mountain Hawks (36-18)
    • How they got here: Patriot League tournament champions
    • Star power: C Carolyn Wright (.316, 41 RBIs); RHP Christine Campbell (22-5, 2.02 ERA, 108 Ks, 176 2/3 IP)
    • Scouting report: Campbell was named the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year and led the Mountain Hawks to their conference tournament championship with a 0.78 ERA in four tournament starts. The senior from San Diego was named tournament MVP. While Campbell is Lehigh’s ace, sophomore Emily Sorem provides stout backup with a 2.47 ERA with an 11-8 record in 24 appearances. Wright, a junior who was named first-team All-Patriot League, leads the team in RBIs and batted over .400 over the past 32 games.
  • San Jose State Spartans (36-17)
    • How they got here: Mountain West champions
    • Star power: 1B Madison Aurin (.357, 31 RBIs); RHP Katelyn Linford (23-7, 2.33 ERA, 190 Ks, 198 1/3 IP)
    • Scouting report: The Spartans won their first Mountain West title in program history to earn a postseason berth for the first time since 2013. San Jose State is making its fourth NCAA tournament appearance but still looking for its first-ever tournament win. Linford was second in the Mountain West in wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched. Linford joined Aurin, who led the team in RBIs and was the only player to start all 53 of San Jose State’s games, and sophomore Cassidy Clark as first-team All-Mountain West selections.