No. 18 Long Beach State swept the UCSB softball team in back-to-back games, stomping out the potential for a Gaucho series win this weekend.
Saturday’s set had the potential to boost Santa Barbara’s Big West record over .500 for the first time this conference; however, the losses put the team behind as they now sport a 4-7 in-conference record and are currently 17-27 on the season.
Long Beach State, on the other hand, now boasts an impressive 35-9 overall record. The two wins increase their conference record to 9-2 and help keep them in close standing with CSUN in their fight for the Big West number one spot.
The Gauchos’ first game seemed more promising than the second; the team held their own and even outhit Long Beach in what resulted in a narrow 5-3 loss. However, come the second game, Long Beach pulled far ahead in a lofty 10-2 win.
Long Beach State’s lineup consistently pressured the Gaucho defense in their most recent matchup, putting up runs in six of the seven innings. With four of their hitters batting .500 and over in the game, Long Beach accumulated 12 hits, a mixture of singles, doubles, and home runs.
First baseman Taylor Rowland led her team offensively, going 2 for 3 at the plate.
The sophomore has four RBI’s on the day, three of which came from her hefty homer in the sixth inning, increasing Long Beach’s lead from 6-1 to 9-1. Her high-range batting average sits tall at 0.381, but amongst her teammates only comes up to be the third highest.
Statistically, Long Beach’s domination at the plate should not have come as a surprise to the Gauchos, not one of its girls’ batting average stoops below .240 in the ten-batter lineup.
The team’s top two hitters, Naomi Hernandez and Nichole Fry, have a combined 121 hits in the overall season and both are sporting a stunning .400 averages. Each girl contributed two singles in the second game.
Though admittedly it would not have changed the outcome of the game seeing as the Gauchos did not produce the baserunners they needed, UCSB turned in a lackluster defensive performance.
With three errors, the girls indirectly allowed three unearned runs. They pushed through three different pitchers including sophomore Felisha Noriega who took the loss in the books for Santa Barbara.
The first game of the day, however, exposed a very different, much more competitive UCSB team than the series result indicates.
The Gauchos kept Long Beach State on its toes the entire game, holding them to only three runs up until the sixth inning while putting up two of their own.
UCSB pitcher Emily Schuttish had the game on lock, practically shutting down Long Beach’s three biggest hitting threats previously mentioned. The freshman demonstrated control on the mound, allowing only a humble five hits. Schuttish holds the lowest ERA of the Santa Barbara pitching lineup at 2.81.
The game as a whole was slow-moving, at a stand-still even for three of the seven innings.
It was not until the sixth inning that the Gauchos gained some offensive momentum for themselves, scoring two of their three runs. Seven hits came out of the lineup, two more than their competitors.
Junior Sierra Altmeyer showed poise at the plate, singling and doubling to come out of the game with a .666 average. So far in Big West, the second baseman has six RBI’s, the most on the team.
It was not until the last inning that Long Beach State was able to pull out the win.
Long Beach’s right fielder and senior vet, Julia Lombardi, came out strong with a two-run homer that began and ended a two out rally for her team.
From there, the Gauchos responded, promptly putting baserunners on in order to execute a traditional scoring method that got them just one run. After back-to-back outs to end the game, the Gauchos were left two runs short of a win.
UCSB has one last shot at redemption today, Sunday, at 1pm where they look to conclude the series against Long Beach on a high note.