The UCSB softball team brought out the brooms for a second straight weekend, sweeping the visiting Utah State Aggies to bring its winning streak to an eight-game toll.
“Everything is coming together for us right now,” junior outfielder Natalie Adame said. “Everyone on the team is hitting. Our defense is solid, and our pitchers are pitching really well.”
The Gauchos (26-29 overall, 11-7 in the Big West) could not have picked a better time to peak, winning 5-4, 6-0, and 8-3.
The Aggies came into Santa Barbara on Friday boasting a four-game conference winning-streak. The Gauchos, winners of their last five games, had a streak of their own that they weren’t about to let Utah State break.
Things got a little too close for comfort for Santa Barbara in the first game of the series. The Gauchos sat on a 5-1 lead heading into the last inning of play. The game was far from over and the Gaucho defense allowed three USU runs and a chance at a last minute upset.
Junior pitcher Loren Thornburg got the call in a rare closing appearance to relieve sophomore hurler Katie Junge – who allowed only one earned run – after six and a third innings. Thornburg came in and put the breaks on Utah State’s comeback as she retired the next two batters in order to seal the 5-4 win for the Gauchos.
“Our pitchers have really stepped it up big time,” junior catcher Jami Trinidad said.
Big time is exactly what Thornburg was in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The righty was dominant in her performance on the mound, throwing a complete four-hit shutout against the Aggies to propel her squad to a 6-0 win. She also notched 10 strikeouts along the way to her club’s 14th shutout of the season, which is the most a Gaucho club has seen since 1989.
“Loren is always solid,” Trinidad said. “Especially in the last month, she has really been hitting her spots and getting her rise to work.”
Though pitching and defense are key elements of any successful club, a team does not win if it can’t create offense. Santa Barbara erupted for eight runs in the final game of the series, with senior second baseman Kim Sawyer, junior outfielder Ashley Groefsema and sophomore outfielder Leslie Simien providing crucial RBIs.
“One thing that really stands out on our team right now is that everyone in the lineup is hitting well,” Trinidad said. “We are scoring a lot of runs.”
Though all the Gauchos were putting up offensive numbers in this series, Trinidad shook off a little bit of a slump to tag some particularly successful outings against the Aggies. She hit .429 in the three games, hit a dinger, drove in six runs and drew four walks.
“Basically when I get in there I don’t want to swing at bad pitches,” Trinidad said. “When I was playing bad last week I wasn’t patient; I wasn’t waiting for them to pitch to me. I really looked to adjust this weekend.”