After receiving a lesson in softball from #9 Cal State Fullerton last weekend, the UCSB women’s softball team was looking forward to its road trip this weekend to battle Utah State and apply what they learned.
Unfortunately, the Gauchos (18-31, 4-14 in the Big West) were only able to win one of the three games played as they sandwiched their 8-7 win between two losses by scores of 10-2 and 5-3. But the good news is that the squad again had strong performances from their freshman and sophomore pitchers and position players. Santa Barbara is now going to be looking to develop its youngsters for next year after getting eliminated from any playoff action.
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, UCSB staggered out of the gates and promptly gave up 10 runs in the first three innings. Utah State (11-36, 5-13) coupled its strong hitting with equally impressive pitching, as Xochitl Ramirez tossed a five-hitter and surrendered only two earned runs. For Ramirez, it was just her fourth win of the season. Junior second baseman Kim Sawyer was the only real offensive firepower for Santa Barbara, smacking her team-leading third round-tripper of the year.
“We just didn’t see the ball that first game,” sophomore pitcher Sylvia Santos said. “But that kind of thing happens in softball. Someone will have a good pitching game and you just have to bounce back.”
In the nightcap, Santa Barbara turned the tables on the Aggies, but it took a while for it to do so. Again, Utah State drew first blood, scoring single runs in the first and second innings. Santa Barbara opened the floodgates in the fifth inning and went on a scoring binge. When the dust settled, UCSB moved ahead 7-2. It tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning that seemed meaningless, but proved to be crucial in the end.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Gauchos appeared to be cruising to an easy 8-3 victory, but then things got out of hand. The Aggies scored four quick runs and it took an amazing effort from the Gaucho defense in order to preserve the win. Sophomore outfielder Sarah Brown was the difference for the Gauchos, while she hit her first career home run for Santa Barbara and ignited the fifth-inning outburst.
“It just felt really good,” Brown said of hitting her home run. “I think that we all just wanted to have fun out there and so I was just trying to swing loose and easy. Honestly, I was just trying to get on [base].”
Sunday’s game was a pitcher’s duel all the way, with Santos on the mound for Santa Barbara and Ramirez throwing again for the Aggies. Things looked dim for the Gauchos heading into the sixth inning and down 1-0, but Santa Barbara racked up three runs in their half of the inning to change the game’s complexion.
But as they did all weekend long, Utah State responded. In their half of that same inning, the Aggies scored four runs and put the game out of reach while rolling to a 5-3 victory.
With no hope of making the playoffs, Santa Barbara is now focusing their attention on this weekend’s final home stand, which are also the last three games of the season for the young Gaucho squad. UCSB will square off against rival Cal State Northridge, a team they have yet to face this season.
“This weekend’s series is pretty important,” Santos said. “We played them last year and it was one of the better series we had all season. This weekend I think we are going to be hoping for more of the same.”