After taking one of three matches against UC Davis last weekend at home, the UCSB softball team will travel to Hawai’i to play three of six straight road conference games.
With their Saturday win over UC Davis, the Gauchos grabbed their first conference win of the season, improving their record to 1-5 in the Big West and 7-30 overall. On the other side, the Rainbow Wahine have won four games in a row, including a series sweep on the road against Cal Poly. Hawai’i is 5-1 in the Big West and 24-10 overall, good enough to tie Cal State Fullerton for first place in the conference.
In order for UCSB to find success in this series they will have to limit the powerful offensive attack of the Rainbow Wahine with strong outings from each of their starters. Hawai’i’s lineup is littered with power hitters which makes them extra dangerous and taxing on the arm of any starting pitcher.
Lead by Callee Heen and Nicole Lopez, Hawai’i leads the Big West in runs per game at 5.29, as well as in home runs with 35. Heen and Lopez have 11 and 10 dingers respectively, but their lineup consists of four players who bat above .300 and nine players who have at least one home run. One more stat to consider when looking ahead to this series is that the 180 runs scored by Hawai’i this season more than double the 88 scored by Santa Barbara, which again conveys that in order for the Gauchos to keep pace, they will have to limit the offensive output of the Rainbow Wahine.
In the Gauchos’ lone win against UC Davis they were lead by Veronika Gulvin who only allowed four hits and one run in a complete game to earn her first win of the season. This will likely be the formula for success for UCSB as their offense has struggled recently by failing to put up more than three runs in 10 consecutive games.
Santa Barbara would benefit if one or more hitters had a breakout series as no one in their lineup has been able to find a groove so far in conference play. Sammy Fabian, UCSB’s leading hitter throughout this season, still sports a .427 overall batting average this season, but her numbers have dipped to just .263 in conference play, and if she can right the ship the team will be in a much better position to win games. The Gauchos have only managed to score four total runs in their six conference games with only two extra base hits in that span, and they will need all the run support they can get to keep up with a potent offensive team like Hawai’i.
Hawai’i has two pitchers who have thrown 182.2 of 223 total innings for the Rainbow Wahine, the first being Brittany Hitchcock, who ranks in the top five of the Big West in ERA, wins and strikeouts. She is one of two starters for UH with the other being Izzy Dino, who has thrown 77.2 innings and ranks seventh in ERA at 2.57. On the other side, Santa Barbara’s pitching staff has found increased success in conference play with a solid 3.09 ERA in six games. Felisha Noriega and Veronika Gulvin pitch the majority of the innings for the Gauchos and while they do not have top 10 ERA’s like Hawai’i’s pitchers, they are both capable of putting together a solid outing and putting their team in a position to win. This series will most likely be decided by whichever club’s pitching staff can stay composed and allow their offense to back them up.
The three-game series will begin Friday, April 12 at 9 p.m. PST in Honolulu.
A version of this article appeared on p. 9 of the April 11, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.