Two games behind first place Long Beach with one series left in the season, the UCSB softball team travels to Cal State Northridge today with the oppor- tunity to earn a Big West Championship crown. With three other teams in conten- tion of receiving the conference’s auto- matic berth to the NCAA tournament, the Gauchos must sweep Northridge and have help along the way to win the pro- gram’s first title.
“I feel good about our chances; I think we can come out strong against Northridge and sweep them,” junior shortstop infield- er Keilani Jennings said. “Our team is at a good place right now. We’re all clicking and as long as we stay within ourselves and play relaxed, I think we have a chance.”
At 27-28 overall and 12-6 in confer- ence, the Gauchos have the opportunity to go over .500 for the first time this season with a sweep of the Matadors. If they sweep, it will mark the first time since 2008 that the Gauchos win 30 games in a season. Northridge, losers of five straight, come in 10-39 overall and 5-13 in league.
UCSB is currently in a three-way tie for second place along with Pacific and UC Davis. The Gauchos need Pacific to beat first place Long Beach State twice this weekend and have UC Davis lose at least one game to secure the conference’s at-large bid to qualify for the postseason. If Long Beach only wins one game, the possibility of a three-way tie for first place exists, with UC Davis winning due to head-to-head competition against Santa Barbara.
“It’s crazy that everything is coming down to this one weekend,” sophomore infielder Kathryn Pilpil said. “We have to do our job and hopefully the other teams can beat each other out so we can come in first in Big West.”
Hoping to pitch the Gauchos into the postseason for the first time since 2007, freshman pitcher Shelby Wisdom looks to put the finishing touches on her spectacu- lar freshman campaign. Already setting the school record for most wins in a season (21), Wisdom ranks No. 27 in the nation in strikeouts (227) and is seven strikeouts shy of breaking the school record for most in a season.
For the Gauchos to come out on top this weekend, they must carry over the offense they displayed last weekend when they scored 17 runs in a sweep of Cal Poly. Freshman infielder Jenessa Jeppesen bat- ted .700 with two home runs and six RBIs on her way to being awarded Big West Player of the Week honors. The Gauchos manufactured runs through singles and bunts, and plan to use the same game plan this weekend.
With the entire season going down to the wire, all the pressure is on the Gauchos to execute. Yet, the team is ready to handle what comes its way.
“They’re playing the best they have all year long,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “We have to play the softball we’ve been playing, execute on offense, play good defense, get some good pitching and win every inning.”
First pitch at Matador Diamond is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.