Whoever said winning is everything forgot to note how the games are won. This past weekend the UCSB softball team showed the importance of attitude as it went 4-1 en route to securing its own Early Bird Invitational championship.
Santa Barbara’s first game of the tournament, an 11 a.m. matchup against New Mexico State, certainly served as an indicator for the way the rest of the weekend would play out for the squad. The Gauchos notched eight runs in the first four innings while holding NMSU scoreless to end the game by the mercy rule in the fifth.
“We came into this weekend really prepared,” junior outfielder Ashley Groefsema said. “Physically, mentally, everything … we were ready to go.”
Junior pitcher Loren Thornburg tossed a complete-game no-hitter in her first appearance on the mound this season.
Junior catcher Jami Trinidad opened up the scoring in the first when she crossed the plate as NMSU hurler Anita Knight gave up a bases-loaded walk. The Aggies were able to get themselves out of this bases-loaded bind in the first, but UCSB was only getting started.
Outfielder Natalie Adame made the first at-bat of her junior campaign memorable as she launched a homer over the left field fence to open the flood gates in the second.
Groefsema singled and stole second following Adame’s solo shot, before scoring on a Leslie Simien bunt single. The sophomore outfielder rounded out the second inning scoring on a bases-loaded walk to freshman third baseman Katie Oliver. Santa Barbara plated one more run in the third and two in the fourth to seal the W in the first tournament of the match up.
“It was awesome to come out in the first weekend and play so well,” Groefsema said. “In our first game against New Mexico State, we did a really good job of keeping up the intensity and playing the way we were supposed to play. We played the whole game at our level.”
The Gauchos would only be able to get three innings in against Loyola Marymount in the second game of the first-day doubleheader before the sun went down. At the end of the first, UCSB found itself down 3-0. The two squads battled through a scoreless second inning before Santa Barbara used a two-out rally in the third and final inning of the day to score two runs.
“We all were really focused, but relaxed all weekend,” Adame said. “It was really fun out there, and it was great the way that everything came together for us.”
After restarting the game the following day in the fourth inning, behind 3-2, the Gauchos rallied back to take the lead with a 6-4 score. However, UCSB couldn’t hold the two-run lead as the LMU bats came alive to score an unanswered six runs to secure the game for the Lions.
Thornburg recorded her second win in as many days with a 7-3 victory over Illinois-Chicago in Saturday’s first game for the Gauchos. Oliver reached base four times in as many at-bats. The freshman went 2-2 with two walks, and also notched 2 RBIs and a run scored.
Santa Barbara put New Mexico State away a second time with a 5-2 win, which they began on Saturday, but finished on Sunday due to nightfall. This time it was senior captain and second baseman Kim Sawyer who put in a dazzling performance, going 3-3 with a double and an RBI to help sophomore pitcher Sylvia Santos bag the win.
UCSB headed into the deciding game against LMU on Sunday hungry as it fought to seek revenge against the only team who had given them a loss. Thornburg and her squad rose to the challenge as the junior hurler tossed her second complete game shutout of the weekend with a 2-0 win over the Lions on an afternoon where she threw a game-high 12 strikeouts.
“Loren did an awesome job this weekend,” Adame said. “She pitched some strong games and her pitches were really working for her.”