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This past weekend could not have gone any better for the UCSB softball team.
Going into the weekend, the Gauchos knew they needed a sweep to stay in contention for a Big West Championship. Santa Barbara answered the call, winning all three games over UC Riverside in its last road trip of the season.
In addition, UCSB received help from first-place Long Beach State, which dropped all three games at home to Cal Poly. As a result, the Gauchos move into a tie with the 49ers for first place. UCSB will host Long Beach next weekend in a series that will determine which team wins the title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Santa Barbara improves to 33-18 overall and 13-5 in conference while Riverside remains in the cellar of the Big West standings at 22-29 overall and 3-15 in league.
“[This weekend] was critical,” junior pitcher Shelby Wisdom said. “We had to win, but we were also banking on Cal Poly beating Long Beach to have a better chance. So now that we’ve swept Riverside, we’re tied with Long Beach in first, so it’s pretty big.”
After giving up 19 runs last weekend to Hawaii, Wisdom was back on her game. Wisdom gave up just four runs over the weekend, three earned, improving to 21-13 on the season. The win was the 62nd of her career, which ties Sandy Ortigies’ record set in 1987 for the most wins in Gaucho history.
“Hawaii is a really strong hitting team, so I expected them to score off of me, but this weekend I worked on keeping the ball low,” Wisdom said.
In yesterday’s 5-3 victory to clinch the series, UCSB jumped out to a 5-1 lead. However, in the closest game of the series, Riverside wasn’t going to allow the Gauchos an easy victory.
With one out in the seventh inning, junior shortstop Kris DeAnda doubled to score freshman right fielder Sommer Wilson and cut the deficit to two runs. UCR continued to rally, putting two runners in scoring position, but could not come up with the hit to tie the game.
Sophomore catcher MeShalon “Meme” Moore anchored Santa Barbara offensively, hitting 4-4 with two runs and two RBI. Wisdom also scored two runs on 2-3 hitting.
“We know we can hit the ball and string in hits and have a strong defense,” Wisdom said. “That helped us having a really good defense this weekend.”
Game two of Saturday’s double header saw a 3-0 victory for UCSB as the entire team got involved offensively. Wisdom went 3-4 at the plate while senior second baseman Kathryn Pilpil hit 2-3 with one run and one RBI. Senior first baseman Lauren Boser also went 1-2 with 2 RBI, and freshman left fielder Kristen Clark, who broke the single season hits record last weekend, hit 3-4.
UCSB first got on the board in the third inning when Pilpil singled to score the eventual game-winning run. In the fifth, the Gauchos were able to get numerous runners on base due to Riverside sophomore pitcher Sophie Slagle walking batters. Three of her five walks came in this inning. With the bases loaded once again, Boser singled to center field, scoring two runners and clinching the game.
Winning the first game 4-1, seven of 10 players in the Gauchos’ rotation got a hit and five had at least two hits as they outhit UCR 13-5.
“It’s really important that all of us were hitting, moving runners and scoring them,” Wisdom said. “It helps a lot and helps us score more easily.”
Unlike the final two games, the Highlanders got on the board first. Their best hitter, senior center fielder Dionne Anderson, singled and stole second before junior first baseman Karina Romero singled up the middle to score Anderson. During Saturday’s double header, Anderson was 4-5 with one run while Romero hit 4-6 with one RBI.
The lead was short-lived, however, as UCSB evened the score in the second inning. Pilpil singled, Boser was hit by a pitch and freshman shortstop Emily Brucelas walked to load the bases. Then, freshman center fielder Stacy Cavazos was also hit by a pitch to score Pilpil.
The Gauchos added two additional runs in the fourth and fifth innings before putting the Highlanders away in the sixth inning with a home run from Wisdom, her sixth of the year.
UCSB will play its final series of the season next weekend at home against Long Beach.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of May 4th’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of The Daily Nexus.