Rachel Garcia and Bubba Nickles will be back with UCLA softball in 2021

Thuc Nhi Nguyen
UCLA center fielder Bubba Nickles in 2019.  (Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

UCLA softball stars Rachel Garcia and Bubba Nickles will have the best of both worlds in 2021.

After the postponement of the 2020 Olympics, Garcia and Nickles will rejoin their college team next year while also playing in the rescheduled Tokyo Games, USA and UCLA softball announced Thursday.

The players will finish their college eligibility in 2021 as the Bruins hope to defend their 2019 national championship. The Olympics were rescheduled for July 23-Aug. 8, 2021. The Women’s College World Series is typically scheduled for late May.

"It's truly an honor to be able to play my last collegiate season, as well as represent USA in the Olympics in the same year,” Nickles said in a statement through UCLA. “2021 is going to be a good one!"

Garcia and Nickles missed UCLA’s 2020 season in preparation for the Games while playing with USA Softball on a pre-Olympic tour. Even without Garcia, a two-time national player of the year, and Nickles, a Softball America first-team All-American center fielder, UCLA finished the pandemic-shortened year at No. 1 in major polls.

Garcia was named the Most Outstanding Player at the WCWS in 2019, going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA while batting .333. She won the Honda Cup, which honors the most outstanding female collegiate athlete across all NCAA sports.

"I am beyond proud and blessed to be able to compete with my Bruins next season and still represent our great country in Tokyo 2021," Garcia said in a statement.

Nickles hit a team-high 18 home runs for the Bruins in 2019 with 72 RBIs, earning her All-Pac-12 first-team honors.

Despite having to wait another year for the Games, USA Softball affirmed its selections for the Olympic team Thursday, saying that the roster announced after October’s Olympic trials will remain intact for next year. Garcia, Nickles and Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola were the only three current NCAA student-athletes included in the group.

"Though their road to Tokyo has been slightly altered, we will continue to work with each athlete and their respective programs to facilitate any training opportunities with the remainder of the U.S. Olympic Softball Team roster as those become available,” USA Softball said in a statement. "We look forward to watching Bubba, Dejah and Rachel compete during the 2021 season."