After a successful 5-1 homestand last weekend, the UCSB softball team now begins a 10-game road trip starting today with the Bank of Hawaii Invitational hosted by Hawaii at the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. The Gauchos are coming off their best performance of the season in last weekend’s Gaucho Classic and will now play five games in three days, including two teams ranked in the top 25 of the nation.
“The players competed and they played well, it was a full team effort. They made huge defensive plays, had good pitching and the offense strung hits together,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “We’ve already faced several top 10 teams so I think they will be prepared … The team is playing much better softball right now and we have just as good of a shot to come out this weekend.”
The Gauchos enter the Aloha State with a record of 6-11 after starting the season 1-10, getting two victories last weekend against then-ranked Houston and recording the program’s first win against a ranked opponent since 2009. The Gauchos will face more stiff competition this weekend, going up against No. 20 Florida State and No. 22 Hawaii.
Santa Barbara will face Florida State (15-0) in its first match and on the following day play a doubleheader versus Radford (4-3) and host Hawaii (12-0), which is off to its best start in program history. The Gauchos will conclude the tournament Sunday, playing two games against teams yet to be determined.
“I think it’s going to be tough, but I think we’ve prepared,” sophomore pitcher Andriana Collins said. “Any team can beat any team on any given day so that’s kinda the attitude we go forward with and not paying attention to what’s on the jersey and just play our game.”
In last weekend’s Gaucho Classic, UCSB had its best pitching performance collectively of the season. Freshman pitcher Shelby Wisdom and Collins struck out 35 batters and combined for a 2.14 ERA. Wisdom is 4-5 with a 3.79 ERA and has been a strikeout machine for the Gauchos, ranking second in the Big West in strikeouts (63) and first in strikeouts looking (23).
Collins allowed only five earned runs in three appearances, pitching 19 innings with a 2.37 ERA.
“I think the team all around helped my performance, defense was great and offense came around amazingly,” Collins said. “When you’re up by a lot of runs you feel relaxed, and when your team is playing great behind you, you don’t really have to worry about too many things.”
The Gaucho bats woke up last week; the team outscored their opponents 24-12 and had its most hits (14) and runs (eight) in a game this season. Junior outfielder Jessica Soria was named Big West Player of the Week for her performance in which she led the team in hits (10), runs (four) and RBI (three). Soria posted a .467 batting average and a .571 slugging percentage.
Senior catcher Lainey DePompa led the team in slugging percentage (.765) and batted .471 during the homestand, including hitting her second home run of the season.
“I guess I was just seeing the ball really well and getting pitches I liked to hit,” DePompa said. “We just kept it simple and focused on swinging at good pitches and executing; I think that’s what helped us push runs across.”
First pitch in Hawaii for the Gauchos is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.