After splitting two high-scoring games that both went into extra innings Saturday, the UCSB softball team needed a victory in Sunday’s rubber game against Hawaii to stay in contention for a Big West Championship.
Rallying behind their freshmen, the Gauchos came away with the 6-4 win, clinching the series at home.
The first-years combined for five of the six RBI for Santa Barbara and half of the team’s runs total. Freshman centerfielder Stacy Cavazos hit 1-2 with one run and one RBI while freshman shortstop Emily Brucelas added two runs and two RBI on 1-1 hitting.
Finally, batting a perfect 4-4 with two RBI, freshman leftfielder Kristen Clark led UCSB Sunday. Entering the day just three hits from tying the regular season hit record, Clark’s four hits brought her total to 76, breaking the record previously owned by former player and current assistant coach Christine Ramos.
“She’s not even close to her ceiling,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said of Clark. “We don’t’ have to worry about records with her. She knows her goal is to get on base any way that she can.”
Each game during the entire series was close, with all three games being decided by two runs or less.
With the score tied 3-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning on Sunday, hits became contagious for the Gauchos as they strung together five straight to take a three-run advantage into the seventh. Although Hawaii made a comeback, scoring one run in the seventh, a double play from Santa Barbara ended the game.
“We got on a roll and the ball looked super big,” Clark said. “They just couldn’t catch us. Everyone was finding a hole.”
With the series victory, UCSB improves to 30-18 overall and 10-5 in the Big West, just three games behind first-place Long Beach State. Hawaii dropped to 20-24 overall and 5-10 in conference.
“[The series win] keeps us in the hunt. We’re taking care of what we need to without having to rely on other people,” Galicinao said. “We just need to stay within striking distance until that last weekend [when UCSB plays LBSU].”
Saturday’s doubleheader featured two nail-biters as the two teams combined 34 runs in 17 innings of play.
Game two swung the Rainbow Wahine’s way. Earning the 9-8 victory in nine innings of play, Hawaii jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth. After adding two more runs in the seventh, the Gauchos needed an incredible seventh inning. Santa Barbara delivered, playing small ball and moving runners with six singles to score six runs in the inning.
However, the effort would fall short as junior first baseman Leisha Li’ili’i hit a home run to even the series at 1-1. It was her second homer of the game. Li’ili’i ranks second in the Big West in homers with her total now at 14 on the year.
Hawaii, the team that leads the league in home runs during conference play, improved to 12-4 when they hit two or more home runs.
“The heart lineup that had been hitting home runs came up in the seventh,” Galicinao said. “I’ve been a little hard on [junior pitcher Shelby Wisdom] this weekend because she’s had better days than she’s shown this weekend.”
Despite playing both games on Saturday at Hawaii’s tempo, Santa Barbara was able to edge out the Rainbow Wahine in a high-scoring battle in game one, winning 9-8 in eight innings.
The offensive battle featured a close, see-saw game the entire way, but UCSB once again had to come back from behind in the seventh. Down two runs with one runner on base and two outs, Brucelas hit a home run to left center field, her fifth of the season.
Going into the eighth, Hawaii’s freshman centerfielder Lindsey Willmon scored on a home run, but the Gauchos answered right back. Wisdom singled before sophomore catcher MeShalon Moore homered to left field to take the series opener. It was Moore’s first home run of the year.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of April 28, 2014′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of The Daily Nexus.