Perez sisters thrilled to be sharing field, memories during UCLA’s softball run
Kylee and Briana Perez were already inseparable when their father hatched what they thought was the coolest idea ever.
The sisters’ bedrooms were on the tiny side, and they already spent seemingly every moment together. So what if the wall between their rooms came down?
“We were like, ‘Yeah, totally,’ ” Kylee said Saturday, recalling the sisters’ mutual reaction. “ ‘Do that!’ ”
Even though they were born three years apart, the girls might as well have been identical twins. They had the same Aug. 2 birthdate, spent countless hours in the front yard playing whatever sport caught their fancy and slept in the same room inside their Northern California home, tossing balls toward the ceiling to see who could get closest without touching it.
So there was certainly no need for that pesky stretch of drywall. Jeff Perez, who worked in construction, took a sledgehammer to the wall as his daughters flitted in and out of the construction zone.
“They jumped up and down,” Jeff said, “and thought it was like a Christmas present.”
It was a prelude to other memories they would share at the Women’s College World Series.
Reunited this season for the first time since Kylee’s senior year at Martinez Alhambra High, the sisters have helped carry UCLA’s softball team to within three victories of the Bruins’ first national championship since 2010.
Briana, a freshman shortstop, will take a 21-game hitting streak (the fourth longest in school history) into the Bruins’ game against an opponent to be determined Sunday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. UCLA needs one victory in its next two games to advance to the best-of-three championship series.
Kylee, a senior second baseman, sparked the first of two epic UCLA comebacks with a three-run home run Thursday against Florida State.
The game ended so late that there wasn’t much time for a special celebration. Kylee and Briana returned to the team hotel, stopped by their parents’ room to say a quick hello and showered before plunking into their beds.
Jeff and Sonja Perez savored the highlight a bit longer, repeatedly watching replays on ESPN before hitting the sack.
“For it to get to this moment … ” Jeff said Saturday afternoon while seated on a plush sofa in the lobby of the team hotel, unable to complete his thought before another voice interjected.
“ … It’s pretty cool,” Sonja said.
The sisters who bat first and second in the Bruins lineup — and form perhaps the most instinctive double-play combination in the Pac-12 Conference — spent part of Saturday chilling in temperatures ranging from minus-215 degrees to minus-221. It was part of cryotherapy designed to assist in the players’ recovery from playing back-to-back days in muggy conditions.
“It was basically like a quick ice bath,” Briana, who hits behind her sister, said of the three-minute sessions in which players’ bodies were immersed up to their necks in the cold.
Briana and Kylee, who often seem to know what the other is thinking, happily share a room on the road. Kylee is the thinking person’s shortstop, watching New York Yankees All-Star Derek Jeter as a tyke before immediately asking her dad to bounce ground balls her way. Briana is the observant one, studying her big sister and usually emulating her every move.
Both sisters are contact hitters who rarely strike out. No wonder they rank Nos. 1-2 in the Pac-12 in runs scored, Kylee with 62 and Briana with 60. They’re also a combined 21 of 23 on stolen-base attempts, though Kylee readily admits that Briana is the faster of the two.
“I leave the speed to her,” Kylee said.
They’re both members of the All-Pac-12 first team after seasons that seem identical in many ways. They’re both hitting .392, with 204 at-bats and 80 hits. Maybe it’s a result of constantly passing each other inside information.
Briana gave her sister tips when leading off earlier in the season before Kylee returned the favor when moving atop the batting order. They also enjoy throwing clumps of dirt at each other between pitches while protecting the middle of the infield.
“She usually throws them first,” Kylee said. “She got me in the mouth one time.”
Perhaps it was payback for Kylee knocking out one of Briana’s baby teeth while speed teaching her how to play catch. Everything that goes around between the sisters seems to come around. They wouldn’t want it any other way.
Said Kylee: “It’s so awesome. I mean, there’s nothing I could have asked for more than to have her by my side to my right.”
Said Briana: “I just can’t say enough about how far we’ve made it together, but we’ve still got some work to do.”
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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