At 24-12, it seems outlandish for a team that finished 27-36 last season to be displeased.
But expectations for the UCSB softball team have skyrocketed.
“I don’t pay much attention to records. Sometimes I don’t even know what it is,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “I think we should be better than 24-12, but it’s a big improvement from last year.”
After dropping five of their last seven games, the Gauchos venture to Pacific (22-13, 1-2 in the Big West) this weekend in hopes of finding a spark that propelled them to a 15-4 record and the strongest team batting average in the Big West. Santa Barbara’s batting average dropped from .281 to .266.
UCSB has put up just five runs in its last four games.
“We have to start to put more pressure on ourselves to win the series,” junior right fielder Leslie Simien said.
Simien will try to make Pacific’s defense sweat a little this weekend by getting on base for the Gauchos. Once on base, Simien, the Gaucho all-time leader in steals (78) and four shy of the Big West record, is almost a sure shot for second base.
Senior third baseman Chantal Pershing has provided desperately needed production lately, hitting 10-for-19 last week with three stolen bases and three runs scored.
“Chantal’s been our sparkplug. It’s no surprise to us at all,” senior left-fielder Ashley Groefsema said. “We love watching her play.”
Pershing now leads the conference in hits (39) and runs scored (23). Her .339 batting average is sixth best in the conference.
“She’s one of the hardest working players I’ve ever coached,” Schroeder said. “She’s very coachable, and she isn’t afraid to fail. She’s a battler.”
If Pershing and Simien can continue to reach base consistently, then the offense will hope for timely hits from the heart of the lineup.
Santa Barbara’s one-two punch in the circle should continue to present problems for the rest of the Big West. Senior Loren Thornburg and freshman Carly Harmon have been stifling hitters since early February and are responsible for the best team ERA in the Big West. Thornburg has been especially brilliant with a 1.24 ERA, but poor run support leaves her with a misleading 12-8 record.
Thornburg and Harmon will try to beat UOP for the first time since 2000. The Tigers, despite losing two of three against Cal Poly last weekend, boast an otherwise impressive resume this year, beating #20 Ohio State and #13 Stanford.