With clear skies on Tuesday came the opportunity for the UCSB softball team to test-drive some hidden talent in a doubleheader sweep against Centenary College of Louisiana.
Freshman reserves Karyna Wilkerson and Kristen Mann started both games, tallying two hits apiece in the 5-0 and 1-0 wins. Mann, who doubles as a forward on the Big West champion women’s basketball team, was the offensive catalyst for the Gauchos in game one, igniting a four-run rally in the sixth inning to build on a 1-0 lead.
“It’s been kind of surprising. I really didn’t think I’d be doing OK being away from live pitching for awhile,” Mann said of her instant success. “But so far, so good.”
The games marked a moratorium in the Gauchos’ Big West Conference schedule and provided a tuneup for this weekend’s series with Cal Poly.
The Gauchos (29-14 overall, 4-4 in the Big West) scored a run in the first on senior catcher Jami Trinidad’s sacrifice fly, scoring junior right fielder Leslie Simien.
UCSB couldn’t add any insurance runs for freshman pitcher Carly Harmon (13-5) until the bottom of the sixth, when Mann reached first. Senior left fielder Ashley Groefsema and Simien delivered consecutive singles to force in Mann and then advanced to third and second respectively on senior third baseman Chantal Pershing’s fielder’s choice.
Junior center fielder E.J. Lauchland’s single drove in Groefsema and Simien.
“I think everybody’s been swinging hard at the ball recently, and I think that’s the reason we’ve been scoring so many runs,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said.
Bats on both sides of the diamonds grew listless in the second game. Santa Barbara scored in the bottom of the first inning again but couldn’t amass anything else against Centenary’s Cheyenne Daries.
Junior Katie Junge started her first game of the year but made it seem like her 20th. Junge held Centenary (18-28 overall) scoreless, allowing five hits while striking out seven.
The tension thickened for UCSB with runners on first and second and nobody out in the top of the fifth. Junge forced the next two batters to pop out. Junge then struck out the third batter.
“I was a little nervous in the first inning because I hadn’t pitched in a while, but after the third inning, I felt really confident,” Junge said. “Honestly, it’s a little nerve-wracking, going up there with runners in scoring position having not pitched in a while, but you just do it.”
“We played really good defense today and I was very happy with the way Katie Junge pitched,” Schroeder said. “If we play like we’ve been playing and pitch like we’ve been pitching, then we shouldn’t have any problems. But you never know. That’s why you play the games.”
Lauchland went 4-6 on the day with two RBIs while Trinidad also went 4-6 with three RBIs.
UCSB will resume Big West play Friday to begin a three-game set with the Mustangs and will need similar production out of Lauchland and Trinidad to be successful this weekend, as well as down the stretch.
On Friday, the teams will play a doubleheader starting at noon. Saturday’s rubber match also begins at noon.
“We’re gonna beat them,” Junge said of the upcoming series against Cal Poly.