The Road to Oklahoma City starts here.


Transition Game: Jaquez Gets Green Light to Join UCLA Softball

Top Stories

UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close was on vacation in Santa Barbara when she received a call from Pam Walker, the program’s director of operations. Walker had received a request from UCLA softball coach Kelly Inouye-Perez asking if she could borrow a player for the NCAA regionals.

Before she became a star forward for the UCLA women’s basketball team, Gabriela Jaquez was a utility player for the Camarillo High softball team. 

Close didn’t need to think twice. 

“I said ‘Absolutely! It sounds like a no-brainer.’ It really wasn’t a hard decision,” Close said. “First of all, I really believe in Kelly and how she leads her program. But I also remember what a huge softball fan and player Gabriela was. I remember her senior year in high school she came down to watch UCLA softball in the NCAA Tournament.”

UCLA, the No. 6 national seed, will host the four-team Los Angeles Regional this weekend. Virginia Tech, San Diego State and Grand Canyon are the other teams in the regional. The Bruins open the tournament against Grand Canyon on Friday night.

Jaquez batted .244 during her senior season at Camarillo with 10 hits, 10 runs scored, eight RBIs and one home run.

Her high school coach was former UCLA infielder Nichole (Victoria) Pinedo. Pinedo’s daughter, Rylee, is a sophomore for the Bruins who is redshirting this season. Jaquez called Nichole Pinedo on Monday night to deliver the news about her joining the softball team.

“She was really excited and very grateful. She is just going to be a runner for them,” Pinedo said. “They’ve had a few injuries with their players so they are down to minimal runners on the bench. Gabriela knows the game. She has played at a high level with us at Camarillo, so it makes perfect sense.”

Jaquez Played for Camarillo High

UCLA softball has a history of using players from other sports for specialized roles on the team. The Bruins have featured former soccer players Sydney Leroux, Kodi Lavrusky, Lauren Brzykcy, Danesha Adams, Kristy Howard and Julie Hoshizaki. Among the other women’s basketball players to join were Denise Curry, Jamie Oenning and Nicole Anderson.

“That’s why this doesn’t really surprise me because UCLA has done this in the past. When I played, we had a point guard from basketball as one of our runners,” Pinedo said. “There have been basketball and soccer players over the years, so this is not something unusual. It may be for other schools, but not unusual for UCLA.”

Close realizes some may wonder about the chance of a key player getting injured playing another sport. But she prefers to see the positives that come from allowing players to get new experiences.

“You never want to put your players at risk, but I am a big believer that you want to be wise and make solid decisions but you also don’t want to make decisions out of fear,” Close said. “I want to make decisions out of opportunity, and this is a great opportunity for Gabs and softball that I could not be more thankful to provide.”

Jaquez, the sister of Miami Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., averaged 10 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists as a sophomore this past season for UCLA, which reached the NCAA Sweet 16 before falling to LSU.

Her softball background came in handy during basketball practices.

“We always have a joke when we run long plays the length of the floor and we need someone to throw the long ball, Gabs says, ‘I got it,’” Close said. “So when we had a special situation plays to throw the length of the floor, Gabs is always the first one up and we rely on her softball arm.”

Although Jaquez wasn’t an everyday starter in softball at Camarillo High, her presence on the roster provided a major boost.

“She was a great athlete and was very competitive. She played all over the field for us,” Pinedo said. “We threw her in wherever we needed her. Softball was the sport she did for fun on the side since basketball was her main sport.”

Close won’t be able to attend the regional games this weekend if Jaquez makes her UCLA softball debut. But she will be cheering from afar and hoping to be in the stands at Super Regionals if the Bruins advance.

“Kelly always talks about the Bruin bubble and the Bruin community, whether that is coaches, alumni or student-athletes and this is a great opportunity to live that and not just speak it,” Close said. “This is a chance to help each other compete at the highest level and a chance for me to support Gabs and her passion.”