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Long Road Leads Brooke Yanez To UCLA, Shot At WCWS

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(Photo by UCLA Athletics)

Brooke Yanez grew up in Ventura, Calif., about an hour and a half—with traffic—away from the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles. Youth teams in the area would frequently travel north to watch Bruins games at Easton Stadium, “cool” memories she said she has to this day.

Yanez remembers getting autographs after games from some of her favorite UCLA players like GiOnna DiSalvatore. Megan Langenfeld signed a poster of Yanez’s, one she still has in her room at home. Langenfeld, or “Coach Lang,” ended up coaching Yanez at the University of Oregon. But Yanez’s favorite memory watching UCLA softball came in 2019 after she entered the transfer portal following her sophomore year at the University of California, Davis.

UCLA beat James Madison 7-2 to quickly sweep its way through the NCAA Super Regionals and advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. Yanez sat with former Bruin Nichole Pinedo. After the game, Yanez went onto the field and was able to meet with assistant coach Kirk Walker.

“That was kind of a cool moment just to see them all putting their (WCWS) hats on, taking pictures,” Yanez said. “It just seemed like a really huge UCLA family atmosphere.”

Following her senior season at Oregon in 2021, one where Yanez collected First-Team All-Pac-12 honors and compiled a 2.11 ERA through 182.1 innings, she found out she had a partially torn rotator cuff in her throwing arm. She didn’t need a full repair, but doctors went in to “clean things up,” beginning a six- to seven-month recovery process. During this time, she once again entered the transfer portal, searching for a third collegiate stop for her super senior year.

“I really had to think about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be come June 2023,” Yanez said. “And that’s the World Series.”

UCLA announced on June 28 that it had added Yanez, a left-handed pitcher, for the 2023 season. "We know Brooke is a fierce competitor in the circle, and with her experience, she will add to our pitching staff and help us in our goal to get back to the Women's College World Series stage,” Bruins head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said in a press release.

In her last year with the Ducks in 2021, Yanez posted a 22-6 record, which included seven shutout starts and 14 complete games before missing the entire 2022 season recovering from her torn rotator cuff. Across 52 total appearances for Oregon, Yanez compiled a 1.97 ERA, a 31-7 record and struck out 362 batters across 245 innings.

“I just think that this was a great opportunity for me to kind of take a step up in this elite program like UCLA and take a step up in my softball career and hopefully end with a good finish with them,” Yanez said.

In 2018-19 for UC Davis, Yanez earned Big West Pitcher of the Year honors during her sophomore season after finishing with a 25-7 record and fourth in the country with a 1.03 ERA.

Yanez began playing T-ball with her twin brother, but “wasn’t really a big fan of it.” She then started playing softball at the age of seven in a recreational league in Santa Paula, Calif., one town over from Ventura. Her mother coached her until she was 12, and threw her in the pitching circle one day. Yanez excelled, and her mother immediately knew she had the potential to play at a high level.

She really had to work at it, though, as, according to Yanez, playing softball is one of the hardest things she’s had to go through in her life. Yanez said she frequently asked herself if she was good enough to play in college, and then at a big program like Oregon. But her continued success since starting college at UC Davis proved to her that she absolutely belongs, and now, she belongs on the most elite stage at UCLA.

“I'm gonna be challenged,” Yanez said. “But I think with my experience and everything, I think just this family atmosphere is really going to take us a long way. I think that's what I'm really looking forward to (at UCLA).”

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