Without its leader to steer the way, the UCSB softball team hit an unexpected bump in the road on Thursday afternoon.
Missing Head Coach Kristy Schroeder, the Gauchos dropped a 7-4 decision to Brigham Young yesterday at Campus Diamond.
UCSB now gazes ahead to this weekend’s Softball by the Beach Invitational at Elings Park in downtown Santa Barbara.
Taking a leave of absence after giving birth on Wednesday to a baby girl named Johnna Sally, Schroeder skipped the game and will be out indefinitely. Assistant Coach Kristi Bredbenner assumed head-coaching responsibilities in Schroeder’s absence.
The Gauchos have cooled off recently after starting the season 9-1. Despite the drop off, Bredbenner is not concerned with the team’s progress.
“The team’s doing well,” Bredbenner said. “We’ve been practicing well. It’s just a matter of getting key hits in big situations; we’ll be fine.”
Santa Barbara found trouble scoring runs last weekend at the San Diego State tournament, but the offense responded well against the Cougars. Senior ace Loren Thornburg pitched her way to a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning. But Thornburg, who has been stellar all year long, uncharacteristically surrendered two homeruns in a three-run fifth inning for Brigham Young, who added two in the sixth to increase the margin.
After securing the victory, BYU will take its confidence into this weekend’s tournament. The Cougars will also compete at the Softball by the Beach Invitational but are not scheduled to face Santa Barbara. The Gauchos do not have long to dwell over this loss as they host some of the nation’s best teams at this weekend’s tournament.
“It should be fun,” Bredbenner said. “There’s 10 teams involved playing on three different fields. We play four big schools [Michigan State, Kansas, San Diego State and Iowa State] that have good softball programs, and they are all off to good starts.”
Senior outfielder Ashley Groefsema echoed Bredbenner’s enthusiasm.
“We’re really excited about this weekend,” Groefsema said. “It’s a good tournament, and they’re all good teams. We need to do some things better. We’re not executing when we need to; that’s very key. We need to push runs across any way we can. We also need to keep doing the things we do well, like our awesome defense and pitching.” The Gaucho outfielder also expressed excitement about playing at Elings Park rather than on campus.
“Even though it’s not our home field, we still know the field,” Groefsema said. “Hopefully that’ll help. It’s gonna be going on in the afternoon and evening. There are a lot of people coming out after school and after work.” Hopefully for the Gauchos, the offense will have a coming out as well.
Santa Barbara begins the tournament Friday at 3:45 p.m. against Michigan State, followed by a matchup with Kansas at 6 p.m. Saturday, the Gauchos face UC San Diego at 3:45 p.m. and San Diego State at 6 p.m. The tournament concludes Sunday morning at 9:30 against Iowa State.