Finally, on its 14th consecutive attempt, the UCSB softball team was able to leave the diamond winners Sunday, defeating UC Riverside 4-1 for its first win since March 26th.
Despite surrendering the first two results to Riverside (21-21 overall, 6-3 in Big West) and therefore the series, the Gauchos (10-30, 1-8) secured their first conference win by generating enough offense to support sophomore pitcher Krista Cobb’s outstanding complete game in which she gave up only one run on five hits.
The weekend set started as many had before for Santa Barbara, who entered the Riverside series 0-6 in Big West play. Lack of run-support, inconsistent pitching and an early deficit played hugely into UCSB’s 7-2 loss in Saturday’s first game, with the Highlanders producing two quick runs in the bottom of the first. Senior pitcher Lindsey Correa simply could not find the strike zone early, allowing seven batters to the plate in the first inning before finally shutting the door. When UCR manufactured another run in the bottom of the third to make it 3-0, Head Coach Brie Galicinao pulled the struggling Correa in favor of senior MeLinda Matsumoto, who ended the third with no further harm done.
UCSB finally got on the board in the fifth after junior infielder Jessica Beristianos scored sophomore outfielder Brooke Putich from second with an RBI double, but Riverside kept the lead at three with a run of their own in the fifth. Down 4-1, the Gauchos earned a solo shot from freshman infielder Keilani Jennings to cut the deficit to 4-2, but a huge three-run sixth inning by Riverside forestalled any notion of a complete Gaucho comeback. Senior pitcher Marissa Alvidrez earned her 15th win of the year after her Highlander offense provided the late cushion, surrendering just two runs on eight hits while striking out three. For UCSB, Correa was saddled with her 11th loss of the year after only 2.1 innings work.
While the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader showcased the team’s offensive sides, the second contest proved to be a pitcher’s duel from the outset. Cobb and Riverside sophomore pitcher Amy Lwin held both offenses to just three hits combined over the first three innings, but it would be Lwin who blinked first in the top of the fourth when sophomore outfielder Jamie Adishian singled in junior outfielder Katie McWhirter from third, putting the visitors up 1-0.
The lead would not hold, however, for two half-innings later UCR exploded for four runs, all of which came with two outs already in the books. Alvidrez, who had done her damage in the first game from the mound, contributed a two-RBI double to centerfield which turned a 2-1 game into a 4-1 Highlander win. Cobb went the distance in a losing effort, giving up all four of her earned runs and three of her four allowed hits in that disastrous fifth.
Having lost 13 in a row at this point, it was an understatement to suggest that UCSB needed a win, but not outside the realm of possibility that they would get it Sunday. Having played UCR close in both games despite the lopsided final scores, if UCSB could put together a complete game both offensively and defensively, a win might be in the cards. Sunday, that’s exactly what they did.
Cobb started again for the home team, this time taking on Alvidrez, the Highlander who had played an integral role in Riverside’s first two victories. After a scoreless first, UCSB drew first blood in the second when freshman infielder Jackie Sweet scored Jennings from second on an RBI single. UCR equalized in the bottom of the fourth with a little small ball, but the Gauchos immediately responded in their very next turn at the dish.
With two on and only one out, Putich tripled to right center to score both runners, putting UCSB up 3-1. Beristianos doubled Putich in during the next at bat to make it 4-1, putting an end to Alvidrez’s day. Cobb, who had faltered late the previous day, showed no chinks in the armor down the stretch, allowing only one run on five hits while fanning six to end the Gaucho’s skid at 13.
UCSB stays on the road for a three-game set at Cal State Northridge next weekend. Santa Barbara returns home May 1 to host Long Beach State for three games at Campus Diamond. As always, admission for students is free.