Every team struggles at one time or another, but good teams will get hot at the end of the season and search to improve each day.

The UCSB softball team seems well on its way to accomplishing this task after dispatching of Riverside in a makeup game Tuesday to win its fourth in a row and ninth of its last 12. The Gauchos (34-17, 9-6 in the Big West) head into a critical series this weekend against Long Beach State at Campus Diamond. The 49ers currently stand in second place in the Big West.

Santa Barbara looks to finish in the top two in the conference and hopefully earn a bid to regionals. In order to do that, the Gauchos must pass the Niners in the Big West standings, so the Gauchos will need a sweep. With a single victory, UCSB would also set a school record for victories with 35.

“I think after we lost a couple games early in the season everybody decided, ‘hey, we’ve got to do something,'” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “They seem to have re-evaluated this season. We know to make postseason, we need to play well now. That’s been the goal all season.”

Schroeder said that the recent hot streak has been a team effort, but applauded senior center fielder Natalie Adame and freshman second baseman Karyna Wilkerson for turning the squad’s season around.

“Obviously Karyna’s earned her way into the lineup,” Schroeder said. “She swings a good bat, gives us some more power and plays good defense. Natalie Adame’s turned it on. She’s starting to do some nice things with the bat.”

Schroeder noted that every ball club needs players that are consistent all year, and the Gauchos definitely have those players in freshman pitcher Carly Harmon and senior infielder Chantal Pershing.

“Carly’s just been a trooper all year as a freshman,” Schroeder said. “She’s come on real strong. Pershing’s been playing hard for us all year long also, performing at a high level.”

Although Schroeder has overseen the dramatic improvement of the team over the last two years, she is reluctant to take credit.

“This team has known it was capable of doing this,” Schroeder said. “It’s no surprise. Last year they found out they were capable, and this year they’ve shown they can compete. It’s been a great accomplishment for the seniors, and it allows me to go out and recruit new players.”

Santa Barbara throws out the first pitch at noon on Saturday with the second game of the doubleheader scheduled right after. Sunday’s game starts at noon.