The first Big West series win is always important.
It feels just a little bit sweeter when the opponent is rival Cal Poly, however.
After dropping game one of the series in blowout fashion, the UCSB softball team found its stride to take the last two games and snap a six-game losing streak.
“It’s the blue-green rivalry and the second week of conference, and I’m mostly proud of how they came back after we basically got it handed to us the first game,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “They made the choice to come back, compete and fight back.”
With the series victory, the Gauchos improve to 23-16 overall and 3-3 in conference. The Mustangs drop to 21-14 overall and 3-3 in the Big West. Both Santa Barbara and Cal Poly move into a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference standings, along with Cal State Northridge.
In yesterday’s rubber match, UCSB earned the 2-1 victory thanks to two runs from freshman leftfielder Kristen Clark. In a game that featured just seven hits combined from both teams, the Gauchos crossed home plate first in the opening inning when sophomore catcher MeShalon Moore hit a sacrifice fly to bring Clark home.
Cal Poly responded in the second inning, but Santa Barbara broke the stalemate in the fifth inning to score the winning run. Clark advanced to first base on a fielder’s choice to third base before stealing second. Then, junior right fielder DeJanee Moore floated the ball just over the head of the first baseman to score Clark and give UCSB the series victory 2-1.
“We had better quality at bats,” Galicinao said. “We only had three hits, so it was a matter of working longer at bats and forcing the pitcher to throw more pitches. We had a few walks and got a couple key hits, and that’s what it takes in our game sometimes. We were able to find a way to push them across. It was enough.”
Junior pitcher Shelby Wisdom earned the victory in the circle, improving to 11-11 on the year. While reigning Big West Pitcher of the Week freshman Sierra Hyland suffered the loss, dropping to 18-6, she gave up just three hits and struck out eight in her six innings of play.
“[Hyland’s] good. Obviously she’s been doing a really good job,” Galicinao said. “As much as you don’t like having [her] against you, it’s also exciting to see a talent like that come through the ranks.”
In game two of Saturday’s double-header, UCSB snapped a six-game losing streak that continued through game one, winning 2-0.
Despite being outhit 7-5, the Gauchos took advantage of their opportunities offensively. Both runs came in the fourth inning due to poor defense from Cal Poly. MeShalon Moore walked, senior second baseman Kathryn Pilpil was hit by a pitch and senior first baseman Lauren Boser reached first base on an error.
As a result, the Mustangs made a pitching change, but it did not matter. Freshman shortstop Emily Brucelas was walked to score Moore in the winning run of the day and sophomore leftfielder Jessica Tetzlaff singled, scoring Pilpil to secure the victory.
Clark led the offense for Santa Barbara, hitting 3-4. Meanwhile, Wisdom earned the win in the circle, earning the shutout while striking out three.
“[Saturday’s win] was really big,” Clark said. “We were feeling a little bit down and frustrated, but to come out and shut them down was really good for us and I think it carried into [yesterday] too.”
Game one on Saturday was a completely different story. Falling 14-1, UCSB failed to contain a Cal Poly squad known more for its defense than its offense.
Eleven different Mustangs scored runs as Cal Poly scored at least one run in six of the seven innings, capped off by six runs in the seventh. Cal Poly also outhit UCSB 15-3.
“The first game, I couldn’t find the strike zone,” Wisdom said. “They were outhitting us and we couldn’t get the ball in play. We couldn’t hit strikes and we were swinging at balls.”
The Gauchos’ lone run of the day came from Boser in the fourth. With her on first base, DeJanee Moore doubled to left-center, which was enough to bring Boser over home plate.
Cal Poly’s young phenom earned the win in the circle, as Hyland allowed just one run on three hits and struck out seven batters in her five innings of play.
“It felt like everything went to them and nothing was working our way,” Clark said. “We got all their best in that game.”
Santa Barbara will be on the road the next two weekends, taking on Cal State Northridge next weekend.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of April 7, 2014′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.