The UCSB softball team began its long awaited conference season this past weekend at Campus Diamond, playing host to preseason league favorites Long Beach State for a three-game series. The Gauchos began their hunt for the Big West regular season title by winning their first conference series, taking two out of three from the 49ers.
“I think this is a great starting point for us,” senior catcher Lainey DePompa said. “We did really well; it’s the way to start conference, and I only see things getting better from here.”
The two wins put the Gauchos at 15-23 overall in the season and 2-1 in the Big West and drop CSULB to 13-20 overall and 1-2 in conference.
Saturday’s opening game of the doubleheader saw freshman pitcher Shelby Wisdom perform double duty on the mound and on the plate. Wisdom gave the Gauchos their first lead of the game in the second inning when she singled to left field with two outs, scoring the runner on second base for a 1-0 lead. Wisdom drew the game even at three runs each in the fourth with a bases loaded hit that brought home two runners.
A throwing error to first base in the sixth allowed the Gauchos to take a two-run lead. Wisdom took over on the mound, striking out a season-high 12 batters and pitching a complete game, limiting the 49er offense to eight hits and one earned run for a 5-4 victory.
“Shelby did great; she really went the distance for us and threw well,” DePompa said. “She hit her spots, worked ahead and basically relied on the defense.”
Long Beach State had an early lead in the second match of Saturday’s doubleheader, taking advantage of two errors by the Gaucho defense to go up 1-0 in the first inning on a single up the middle by junior infielder Nalani St. Germain. St. Germain had another RBI in the fifth inning, hitting a sacrifice fly to center field to bring the runner in from third base right before the game was postponed in the sixth due to a rainstorm. Long Beach continued scoring on Sunday, putting up a run in the seventh inning and shutting out the Gauchos 3-0.
Wisdom continued her pitching dominance in the finale of the series, pitching a complete game and allowing one run on three hits. Down by one run, the Gauchos battled back in the fifth inning when sophomore shortstop Keilani Jennings singled and sophomore second baseman Kathryn Pilpil followed with a walk, setting the stage for freshman first baseman Jenessa Jeppesen to hit her second homerun of the season, smashing a ball over the left field fence for a three-run blast.
The three runs were all that Wisdom needed as she finished the game retiring the next six batters she faced for a 3-1 win.
After its first taste of conference play, UCSB will now go on the road for a three-game series this weekend against another conference opponent, Cal State Fullerton.
“I think we are in our comfort zone now, and we’re figuring things out and we’re coming together,” Pilpil said. “Everything is falling into place, and we look good. We have a lot more that we can do, so that’s exciting.”