The UCSB softball team is beginning to earn a reputation for talking the talk, then backing it up with solid play on the field.
After downplaying the magnitude of a midseason mini-slump, the Gauchos swept a doubleheader Saturday at Campus Diamond against UC Riverside.
Sunday’s finale, postponed because of rain, will be made up Tuesday, April 29. In the first game, the mercy rule was instituted as Santa Barbara rolled to an 8-0 lead after five innings. Senior third baseman Chantal Pershing hit her first home run of the season, and junior second baseman E.J. Lauchland went two for three at the plate with three RBIs.
Senior pitcher Loren Thornburg allowed only two hits in five innings to improve to 13-9 on the year.
In game two, the Gauchos (27-14, 4-4 in the Big West) fell behind 3-0 and trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the fifth inning. Santa Barbara rallied for three runs as senior catcher Jami Trinidad’s ground-rule double into the left-center field gap plated two runs to give the Gauchos a 5-3 advantage. Junior right fielder Leslie Simien added an insurance run in the sixth with a bloop RBI single to finish off the scoring in a 6-3 UCSB win.
Simien, who already holds the UCSB all-time record for career steals, added to her already impressive rZ
Not to be outdone by her fleet-footed teammate, senior first baseman Sarah Brown set a record of her own by smashing two triples in the game one stomping. This marked the first time in the 30-year history of Gaucho softball that a player hit two triples in the same game.
Brown’s two hits paced a torrid Santa Barbara hitting attack that appears to get better as the season churns.
“This isn’t new – we’ve been hitting the ball well,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “We’ve been better in practice, which makes all the difference. Also our pitchers have been throwing a lot of live batting practice lately. That’s helped.”
Schroeder also praised her squad for rallying after falling behind by three runs early in the game. This year’s group has not been as proficient in comebacks as last year’s squad. Santa Barbara’s skipper emphasized that having the confidence to comeback is crucial to a team psychologically.
“I think that was the biggest deficit we’ve come back from this season,” Schroeder said. “It’s great to see that we have the confidence to make a comeback like that.”
Although Schroeder was pleased that the Gauchos kept pace in the Big West, she chafed at the notion that the sweep demonstrated the team’s best all-around performance of the season.
“We’ve been hitting and pitching well,” Schroeder said. “But we could’ve played smarter. Our defense has been better. With our base running, we weren’t all there. I was surprised. We usually don’t make mental mistakes. We need all four components of the game to be working at the same time.”
The Gauchos do not have to wait long for an opportunity to put all four components together. The team is scheduled to play a doubleheader at home on Tuesday against Centenary starting at 1 p.m.