After the New England Patriots were able to ride a wave of good fortune for Feb. 5’s Super Bowl, there was hope some of their luck might remain in the city for the UCSB softball team in the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational a week later. They would find no such thing, however, dropping four of their five opening matches to start the season with a 1-4 record.
Friday saw the Gauchos trampled twice, losing 6-1 to Wichita State before dropping their second game 14-2 to the University of Houston. Wichita State would get the better of UCSB again Saturday, 7-3, though Santa Barbara rebounded with a 12-10 victory over Wright State later that morning. UCSB wrapped up the weekend with a 6-2 loss to Boston College, which improved to 3-0 with the win.
Wichita State was Friday’s contest’s away team and was able to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Redshirt junior outfielder Paige Luellen was responsible for the two RBI with her one-out home run, scoring senior middle infielder Kelli Spring, who singled to start the inning.
UCSB sophomore pitcher Veronika Gulvin was able to finish the inning, and allowing only a single in the fourth, but the fifth frame proved to be her breaking point.
Spring started the bleeding with a bunt single, following that up with a stolen base. Gulvin then hit sophomore middle infielder Laurie Derrico and after a fly out from Paige Luellen senior first baseman Macklin Hitz rocketed one over the left field fence, bumping the lead to 5-0.
Freshman pitcher Felisha Noriega replaced Gulvin at that point, finishing out the next two-and-two-thirds innings. She allowed one run in the sixth; Spring was again involved in the action. She singled to center field, knocking home sophomore utility Mauriana Jamele, who had reached to start the inning on an error by UCSB senior infielder Emily Brucelas at third base.
Wichita State senior pitcher Katie Malone went the distance, pitching all seven innings and allowing eight hits, one run, and one walk while striking out five. Senior outfielder Jacqueline Hinojosa was able to get the Gauchos on the board in the fifth, singling with the bases loaded to score sophomore shortstop Melanie Menor from third, but that was the only run UCSB could muster.
UCSB’s four errors were a deciding factor as the Shockers had only one more hit than the Gauchos, but they did not commit an error on the field all afternoon.
The following game was over quickly as Houston took it to the Gauchos, scoring six runs in the bottom of the first inning. Loving their home field advantage, the Cougars hit through their entire lineup in the opening frame.
Sophomore outfielder Elise LeBeouf singled to right field, scoring freshman utility Arielle James and advancing sophomore outfielder Maya Thomas to third, bringing up senior designated player Shelby Miller.
Miller delivered, slamming a homer over the center field fence, pushing the lead to 4-0. Noriega entered her second-straight game, this time replacing junior starter Lena Mayer with only one out in the first.
Freshman infielder Sarah Queen and redshirt sophomore infielder Sarah Barker were responsible for the next two runs batted in, ending the inning with six in total.
LeBeouf collected two more RBI with a home run in the second inning and the Cougars again went off in the third with another five runs.
Hinojosa and senior outfielder Kristen Clark accumulated the only two RBI for the Gauchos, with the former hitting in Menor for the second-straight game and the latter scoring junior outfielder Jessica Johnston on a sacrifice fly.
UCSB would go through two more pitchers in the game: freshman Lilliana Rodriguez and Gulvin for the second time Friday. Houston sophomore Presley Bell would pitch the second complete game against the Gauchos that day, though the Cougars would only need five innings; a 14-2 score was enough to end the game because of the mercy rule, a deficit of 10 runs after five innings.
Noriega pitched in her third-straight game Saturday, starting the 9 a.m. match against Wichita State. Seeing Noriega for the second time in two days, the Shockers jumped all over her, scoring five runs in the second inning after earning one in the first.
Redshirt freshman pinch hitter Whitney Pemberton was able to homer in the fifth inning for the Gauchos, scoring freshman infielder Alyssa Diaz from first. Diaz went on to earn a RBI in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk from senior pitcher Katie Malone, though the run would be credited to the freshman starter Bailey Klitzke.
The Gauchos escaped with a 12-10 victory on Saturday, rallying to score four runs in the top of the seventh inning. Freshman infielder Kayla Krantz and junior outfielder Jessica Johnston hit home runs for Santa Barbara, going 2-3 with two runs, three RBI and a walk and 2-2 with two runs and one RBI, respectively.
Lilliana Rodriguez got her first win of the season in the last one-and-two-thirds innings, giving up only one hit, albeit a two-run home run. Raider junior pitcher Ashley Sharp was credited with the loss, giving up five runs — four of them earned — in three-and-a-third inning of relief work.
Boston College finished off the Gauchos’ weekend by again building up an early lead in the first three innings.
Junior second baseman Chloe Sharabba homered over the left field fence, which was followed one out later by senior catcher Tatiana Cortez homering to left center. Junior designated player Jordan Chimento then blasted a home run down the left-field line, hitting in three runs to push the lead to 6-1.
UCSB was only able to create two runs: sophomore infielder Sierra Altmeyer when Pemberton was caught stealing in the second and Clark on a wild pitch in the sixth.
Junior Jessica Dreswick pitched yet another complete game against the Gauchos, and UCSB again relied on Noriega and Gulvin to gut through another seven innings. Santa Barbara’s lack of pitching depth was very apparent on the weekend and will certainly need to improve if the Gauchos are able to turn their season around after an early funk.
The Gauchos will play Nebraska-Omaha, Pacific, and Stanford at the Stanford Nike Invitational next weekend.