The UCSB softball team looks to kick off its season at home this weekend with the 2014 Gaucho Classic.
Four different teams will be competing in the round-robin tournament including Cal State Bakersfield, Dayton and Texas A&M.
The Gauchos, who had an overall record of 31-24 and a conference record of 12-12 last year, will play in four games at Campus Diamond including a double header on Friday. Their first match will be early Friday morning against Dayton followed by two games with Texas A&M, one later in the afternoon and one on Saturday. The Gauchos will wrap up their weekend on Sunday with CSUB.
With the graduation of its batting average leader, Jessica Soria, UCSB will look to the only other player to bat over .300 last year, Sophomore infielder Arianna Palomares. As a freshman, Palomares was a huge offensive surge as she reeled in 50 hits and had an average of .307 overall, ranking her second on the team behind Soria.
The presence of Palomares last year beautifully complemented the “small-ball” style of play that the Gauchos present by getting on base and creating scoring opportunities for the team.
Another player who is sure to make some noise for Santa Barbara this weekend is junior pitcher Shelby Wisdom. Wisdom, a former Big West Freshman of the year and All Big West team selection, is a double-sided knife for the Gauchos on the diamond with outstanding defense and offense.
Last year she stood in the circle almost twice as much as any other pitcher with 43 appearances, 27 of them being starts. She pitched a total of 193.1 innings, while no other pitchers reached 100 innings on the year, and recorded an earned run average of 3.19, 136 strikeouts and 17 wins.
Her defense in the circle is dominating but it is not limited to pitching, as the coaching staff is no stranger to sticking the junior in the outfield on days that she doesn’t pitch or even after they bring in another pitcher. This strategy used by head coach Brie Galicinao is without a doubt to keep her on the field for offense.
Last year Wisdom ranked third on the team in batting average with .299 and first in RBI’s as she drove in 41 for UCSB. Her ability to get big hits (.545 SLG%, 8 HR’s) provides a surge for the Gauchos that allows the team to take control of games early and for her to close out the match with her arms. Anytime a player can superbly provide their own run support, they will surely be a threat to any team. Her Babe-Ruth-like style has made her very valuable to Santa Barbara.
Being that this is the opening of the season for the Gauchos, look to see an appearance from some of the new additions of the team. In the off-season UCSB picked up six freshman, three outfielders, two infielders and a pitcher. With some proficient and disciplined play by the Gauchos this weekend, these younger players will get a chance to put their cleats on NCAA grass for the first time.
First pitch will be thrown at 10 a.m. Friday morning against Dayton at Campus Diamond.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.