The UCSB softball team looks to build on its 5-1 Campus Diamond record when Pacific comes to town to open up Big West play this weekend.

“It will definitely be nice to get some home games in,” junior pitcher Sylvia Santos said. “We want to go out and play some quality innings, keeping focused on working on the small details.”

The task of overcoming Pacific won’t necessarily be an easy one for the Gauchos, as Pacific comes in as the 18th ranked team nationally according to the AFCA/USA Today poll. Though the Tigers have notched a ‘W’ against three other nationally ranked opponents, they have hit some recent turbulence, dropping six of their last seven.

Santa Barbara hasn’t had much better luck in the win column lately either. Though the score has not always indicated it, the Gauchos have kept things positive and in perspective, recognizing that they have made a great deal of improvement already in this young season.

“We haven’t been winning as many games as maybe we would like to, but we really have made a lot of progress,” junior pitcher Loren Thornburg said.

Junior first baseman Jami Trinidad shares similar sentiments.

“[Since the beginning of the season] every aspect of our game has improved. Everything,” she said.

The Tigers roll in tied for the third spot for most wins in the Big West behind Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton. A big reason for this success has come at the hands of senior pitcher/designated player Cindy Ball. This Feb. 4 Big West Pitcher of the Week has been getting it done on both sides of the plate. Ball has amassed 91 strikeouts in the 2002 campaign for the top spot in conference, while also leading her team offensively, compiling a .317 batting average with two home runs and 12 RBI’s.

Things have been looking pretty good for the Gaucho offense, with Trinidad leading the charge. Last weekend in Utah the junior out of Norwalk, Calif. went 7-16 with two doubles, a homer and 4 RBI’s. She posted a .750 slugging percentage while sporting a batting average at the .438 clip.

“Our offense has been awesome,” Thornburg said. “We will be trying to continue on that [this weekend], and improve on our pitching. We worked on defense a lot this week, and I really worked on hitting my spots and letting the defense do its job.”

Thornburg has broken into the seventh place on the all-time list with 276 career strikeouts. Her 84 K’s this year leads the team and is second, behind Pacific’s Ball, in the Big West. UCSB has been able to get it done on its home field this year and if it can put together some strong performances on the mound with a steady showing in the batter’s box, this weekend should be no different.

Santa Barbara and Pacific will face off at noon on Saturday to start the double header and round it out with a single game on Sunday, with first pitch also scheduled for noon.