The UCSB softball team lost two games to the UCLA, the nation’s top-ranked team, but the Gauchos played well enough to earn the Bruins’ respect. Santa Barbara, at 15-5, has played well enough to earn plenty of national respect before even facing the #1 Bruins.
For the first time in school history, the Gauchos received votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top-25 poll that was released on Tuesday. UCSB could not crack the Top 25, but received 12 votes.
“It’s nice, and feels good to be recognized,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “We have been playing very good, consistent softball. It is nice that we are being noticed and getting some positive feedback, it’s another reminder to the players, letting them know that they have been doing a good job.”
Some of the athletes were surprised about the news.
“I’m pretty excited, and I’m surprised,” senior right-handed pitcher Loren Thornburg said. “But I’m not that surprised, because we are that good. We beat Oregon, who was ranked 22nd, and we’re playing well, but Santa Barbara has never gotten that kind of recognition. Sometimes I think it’s hard for teams that don’t have a name for themselves [to make the poll].”
The Gauchos hope to continue impressing observers this weekend when they play against Nevada and St. Mary’s at Campus Diamond. UCSB defeated Nevada earlier in the season in the Cal Poly Mustang Roundup. But the team understands the importance of focusing on the schedule one game at a time.
“If we play our game, we should win,” Thornburg said. “But usually St. Mary’s is pretty decent and could easily beat us. Last time we kind of took Nevada lightly and the game was closer than we would have liked.”
Two setbacks might deter the Gauchos, yet victories would build the confidence of an up-and-coming squad that’s eager for the start of Big West play.
Both Saturday’s doubleheader against Nevada and Sunday’s doubleheader against St. Mary’s begin at noon.