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Alumni report: Former Baron swinging a big bat for UCLA

Alumni report: Former Baron swinging a big bat for UCLA
Bonita Vista graduate Aaliyah Jordan has helped lead UCLA to a No. 1 ranking this season. (UCLA Athletics)

It was one week before the start of the season and Aaliyah Jordan had no idea if she would be able to play softball for UCLA.

A torn ACL, suffered in the last game of the fall season in December 2016, cost the former Bonita Vista High star her freshman season with the Bruins.

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"The injury was dream-crushing," Jordan said. "I was crying when it happened."

"Normally, rehab for surgery on my type of injury is eight months. Mine took 14.

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"UCLA is very careful with injuries. You have to pass a bunch of clear-to-play tests before they let you back on the field. I wasn't cleared to play until Feb. 1, 2018."

Jordan was in the starting lineup when the Bruins opened the season Feb. 9 against Maryland, driving in a run in a 5-1 win.

That was one of 48 wins for the No. 1-ranked Bruins, who are 48-3. And Jordan hasn't stopped hitting.

She leads the team in batting average (.467), home runs (10), doubles (14) and RBIs (61).

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She has struck out just 18 times in 180 plate appearances.

"I'm not really surprised I'm doing well," Jordan said. "In high school and travel ball, we played the top teams. So I was prepared.

"I've always worked hard. It was just a matter of doing the same things I've always done."

Jordan was determined not to lose her swing while rehabbing her knee.

"I was swinging the bat every chance I had," she said. "If I couldn't stand up, I'd sit on a bucket and hit.

"I've learned that the biggest thing in college is mental, not physical.

"Softball won't last forever. That's one reason I chose UCLA. It's a top academic school that gives its athletes tutors and all the help they need to succeed in the classroom.

"When you take the field, you can relax because you've done the work off it. Everybody is good at this level, so you have to be smart. You can never take a pitch off."

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The injury has set Jordan on a career path.

A psychology major, she wants to stay in sports, perhaps working on the mental side of the game.

The Bruins will have a physical and mental test this weekend when they host Arizona State, the third-place team in the Pac-12. UCLA and Oregon are tied for first at 18-3. Oregon plays Cal.

"We want to win a national championship," Jordan said. "That is 100 percent of my dream. Last year, not play, just watching, I didn't understand what it took to do that, to push through the soreness.

"Now I understand, and a championship is the goal."

More softball

Makayla McCarthy (Steele Canyon), a freshman at Wilmington University, was named CACC Pitcher of the Year after going 18-10 with a 1.69 ERA. She made 28 starts with 23 complete games, striking out 211 in 1942/3 innings. She also batted .348 with six homers, 13 doubles and 34 RBIs. Senior Keara McCarthy (Steele Canyon) hit .255 with a pair of homers and 11 RBIs for the Wildcats.

Sam Klem (Clairemont) hit .340 with three homers and 18 RBIs for Holy Family in Philadelphia.

Keelee Davis (Eastlake), a freshman catcher, hit .277 with seven doubles and nine RBIs for Felician in New Jersey.

Baseball

Andres Rios (Mater Dei Catholic/Grossmont College) was Great America Conference Player of the Week after going 12-for-17 with nine runs and nine RBIs. He's hitting .354 with nine homers, 14 doubles and 52 RBIs for Arkansas-Monticello.

Connor Bailey (Scripps Ranch), a junior outfielder at Willamette, is hitting .367 with 11 doubles and 53 RBIs. He leads NCAA Division III schools with 14 home runs. Willamette is heading to the regional playoffs.

Hayden Schilling (West Hills) is hitting .291 with 12 doubles and 21 RBIs at New Mexico.

Men's volleyball

Freshman libero Garland Peed (Torrey Pines) finished the season with 105 digs and 31 assists for UCLA, which lost to Long Beach State in the NCAA championship match,

Brad Gretsch (La Costa Canyon) led EIVA champion Harvard with 247 kills and had 36 blocks. Adam Gordon (Francis Parker) had 27 kills and six blocks for the Crimson.

Matt Younggren (Mt. Carmel) finished the season with 77 kills and 40 blocks for UC Irvine.

Professional volleyball

After an eight-year NBA career, Chase Budinger (La Costa Canyon) is now playing pro beach volleyball. A McDonald's All-American in basketball, Budinger played at Arizona. He was also the Volleyball Player of the Year at LCC in 2006. The 6-foot-7 Budinger has a 40-inch vertical leap.

Women's beach volleyball

Savvy Simo (Torrey Pines) and Megan Muret (La Costa Canyon) won matches as UCLA defeated Florida State to capture the NCAA championship. Simo was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection. The Bruins finished the season 40-3, an NCAA record for wins in a season.

Riley Young (La Jolla) finished the season 17-7 for LSU.

Alexis Filippone (Torrey Pines) was 25-2 for Pepperdine.

Ka'iwi Schucht (Serra) was 34-4 for Hawaii, 25-1 while playing at No. 1. Paige Dreeuws (San Marcos) was 24-6. Hi'ilawe Huddleston (Rancho Bernardo) and Chloe Luyties (La Jolla) also saw action for Hawaii.

Iya Lindahl (Patrick Henry) was a second-team All-Pac-12 pick while playing at Cal.

Track and field

Neil Saddler (Scripps Ranch) and Grant Allington (Carlsbad) were honored by NYU with the Student-Athlete Academic Achievement Award. Saddler, who is graduating with a mathematics/physics degree, was an NCAA Division III All-American in the 3,000 meters. Allington, who is graduating with a biochemistry degree, ran the 3,000-, 5,000- and 10,000-meter races for the Violets.

Men's tennis

Andrew Schiffman (La Jolla Country Day) had key wins as Rose-Hulman defeated Earlham to claim its fourth straight conference championship. The Engineers advance to the NCAA Division III playoffs in Chicago with a match against Carnegie Mellon.

The Alumni Report appears every other week during the college season. Readers are encouraged to submit information on former San Diego County prep athletes to john.maffei@sduniontribune.com.

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