'The girl is on fire': Delanie Wisz powers UCLA into Women's College World Series

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UCLA Delanie Wisz (97) during an NCAA softball game on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Los Angeles.
UCLA's Delanie Wisz, shown here running bases against Grand Canyon on May 20, finished with two hits and three RBIs in the Bruins' 8-2 NCAA super regional win over Duke on Saturday night. (John McCoy / Associated Press)

Delanie Wisz left Saturday’s game with a different uniform than the one her UCLA teammates were wearing. She earned that sticky, dark blue fabric.

Wisz led the fifth-seeded Bruins to their seventh consecutive Women’s College World Series appearance on Saturday with two hits and three RBIs in an 8-2 super regional win over No. 12 seed Duke at Easton Stadium. The Bruins (48-8) will travel to Oklahoma City to begin the World Series on Thursday.

The third baseman/catcher is eight-for-16 in the postseason with 12 RBIs and caught three runners stealing but saved her best for Saturday’s critical game. She brought home the go-ahead run in the fifth with a double off the center-field fence, caught Rachel Crabtree stealing to end the sixth, then busted the game open in the seventh with a two-run double that opened the floodgates for a five-run inning.

The bucket of blue Powerade her teammates dumped on her during an on-camera interview with ESPN was a well-deserved reward.

“The girl is on fire,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez, who wrapped Wisz in a sticky hug after postgame interviews. “She epitomizes being clutch under pressure.”

After throwing 106 pitches, striking out 10 and driving in the game-winning runs on Friday, pitcher Megan Faraimo earned her seventh save of the year with three scoreless innings, fanning seven, including the game-ending strikeout. After Duke’s Kavel Jameson swung through the last pitch, Wisz spiked the ball to the ground and ran into Faraimo’s arms.

“Just absolute thrill,” Wisz said of the emotions in the moment.

Saturday’s victory was the latest high mark in Wisz’s unlikely path to stardom that started at Loyola Marymount.

While assistant coaches Lisa Fernandez and Kirk Walker thought seriously about recruiting Wisz to UCLA, Inouye-Perez said she didn’t know much about the third baseman as a recruit. Coming out of high school, Wisz “just wasn’t that player for us,” Inouye-Perez said before the postseason.

Wisz admits she was a late bloomer on the recruiting trail out of Santa Maria Righetti High. Many top prospects commit to their schools as a freshman, but Wisz didn’t begin the recruiting process until her sophomore season. Fernandez told her she knew Wisz was a good player, but by the time the prospect had proven herself, UCLA’s 2018 recruiting class was already set. Instead of following her older sister to UCLA, where Stevie Wisz earned a spot as a walk-on, she went to Loyola Marymount.

Wisz made an impact as a freshman, earning All-West Coast Conference honorable mention, then got even better with All-WCC second-team honors as a sophomore. But she didn’t feel challenged there.

Now surrounded by All-Americans, national champions and national team members, Wisz says she’s challenged every day.

“It has without a doubt made me 10 times the player I was in my old school,” said Wisz, who earned her first All-Pac-12 first-team honor this season.

Wisz recalled the feeling of looking at Loyola Marymount's conference rival Brigham Young, which has won 12 consecutive conference titles, and thinking the Cougars were a juggernaut. Now playing for the most decorated softball team in the country, Wisz is the one drawing envious glances as she pulled on a World Series cap and posed with an oversized “ticket” signaling UCLA’s admission to the sport’s biggest annual stage.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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