The UCSB softball team envisioned a strong finish to the regular season after bottoming out the previous year.
The Gauchos knew going into the final series of the year that they had a chance at achieving their season-long goal: a top-three finish in the Big West Conference.
Santa Barbara knew that it needed a clean sweep of Sacramento State at the Hornets’ home field to secure third place in the conference. This is a difficult place for any team to find itself in. The Gauchos were so close to this goal they could taste it. Unfortunately, the weekend began and ended in disappointment for the Gauchos, who dropped the first and last games, 3-1 and 2-0 respectively, in their conference finale. UCSB managed to win the second game 1-0.
“Obviously it was disappointing for us to not be able to go out on a winning note,” junior catcher Jami Trinidad said.
A bright spot on the afternoon came from the feet of sophomore right fielder Leslie Simien, who stole two bases in the second game to bump her season total to 39, a Big West record. Simien also collected two hits in the contest.
Falling just short of another record, senior shortstop Julia Tamai fell one hit short of the UCSB single-season record, smacking 58 hits on the year. Simien recorded 57 hits.
A problem that has plagued UCSB softball in years past came back to haunt the Gaucho players. Santa Barbara struggled mightily at the plate. Over the three games in Sacramento, UCSB was unable to create a consistent offense, tallying only two runs on the weekend.
“That really hurt us. Our pitching was good and our defense was good,” junior outfielder Natalie Adame said. “But you don’t win games unless you put runs on the board.”
It looked like the Hornets would be in for a long weekend from the way the Gauchos started off the series, scoring in the top half of the first inning when Simien scored on Tamai’s sacrifice fly.
This early lead didn’t last long and Sac State answered with a solo run of its own in the bottom half of the first. Santa Barbara was unable to get another run across, while the Hornets matched their first inning output in both the second and third innings to take a commanding and insurmountable two-run lead.
Junior hurler Loren Thornburg tossed a two-hit shutout for Santa Barbara in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader while also striking out five Hornets.
The Gauchos needed eight innings to get a run on the board for the win. Simien started off the final inning with a double. Trinidad laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Simien over to third, but Sac State third baseman Mary Villalpando threw the ball away and Simien was able to score on the error.
The offensive struggle continued for the Gauchos in the third game. Sacramento State pitcher Nicole Deatherage threw a one-hit shutout to take the series from the Gauchos.
“We definitely didn’t play our best this weekend,” Trinidad said. “Although that was a frustrating way to end the season, it was not at all a reflection of our season as a whole. I think the whole team feels good about the season we had, even if we didn’t go out the way we wanted to.”
UCSB finished the season with a 27-36 overall record and a 12-12 conference finish, good for fourth place in the Big West. No. 9 Fullerton captured the Big West title, followed by University of the Pacific in second and Long Beach State in third.