By Harry Berezin

Staff Writer

Despite losing two heartbreaking, extra-inning marathons, the UCSB softball team remains confident heading into this weekend’s series at Campus Diamond against conference rival Riverside.

After dropping two out of three to Pacific last weekend, the Gauchos sit at 2-4 in the Big West and 25-14 overall. They still carry the swagger that they did early in the season.

“We played good defense, had good pitching and we hit the ball,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna get a win. We gave ourselves every opportunity to win those games, but we needed some luck and some calls to go our way. They didn’t. But we’re still in the race. Everyone’s looking really even right now in our conference. I think we’re looking good. We improve everyday.”

Schroeder pointed out that the team is in the same position it was in last year. The important thing for the Gauchos, she said, is not to allow the sting of playing 29 innings without picking up a victory to carry over.

But these Gauchos are a resilient group.

“We just worked our butts off for 15 innings [on Saturday] and didn’t get a win,” senior pitcher Loren Thornburg said. “Then we came back the next day and won.”

Thornburg also dismissed the idea that either she or freshman pitcher Carly Harmon would suffer any wear and tear from tossing so many innings. Thornburg pitched the entire 15-inning game Saturday and wound up with a nasty blister on her pitching hand. Harmon threw all 21 innings of Sunday’s doubleheader. The senior pitcher seemed inspired by the efforts of her pupil.

“I thought [15 innings] was a lot,” Thornburg said. “But then Carly pitches 21. I just look at it like I’m gonna pitch until they hit me. I don’t really think about it. The team played really well to go that many innings.”

This confidence extends to the Gaucho hitters as well. The team seems intent on turning this negative into a positive.

“We were hitting the ball solid,” second baseman E.J. Lauchland said. “We hit well, just not when there were runners in scoring position. But throughout both those games we never let up. Our minds were still fresh. Right now we’re physically tired but not emotionally. This just made us feel like we need to win [this weekend]. Our goal of being in the top two in the conference is still completely reachable.”

A good time to begin their run at the top of the conference is this weekend at home against the Highlanders. A sweep could put the ever-confident Gauchos over .500 in the conference.

The two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday starting at noon. The series finale on Sunday also begins at noon.