UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder has a picture of this year’s softball team. The picture consists of excellent fielders, on-target pitchers and powerful hitters. After only 11 preseason games, the picture is becoming more and more clear.
After a second-place finish in last week’s Cal Poly Tournament, the UCSB softball team (7-4) will head to San Diego to play in their annual SDSU Softball Tournament this weekend.
“We are looking more like a team each and every game,” freshman leftfielder Jessica Hejna said. “Our pitching and fielding is all starting to come together, and after placing second in last week’s tournament, our spirits are high as we head down to San Diego this week.”
The team will encounter an array of top Division I teams including teams from the Mountain West Conference, Southeastern Conference and Big 12 Conference. First, the Gauchos will see the extremely talented Mississippi State led by senior outfielder Iyhia McMichael, who was nominated as one of eight players to win Division I Softball Player of the Year. The Bulldogs are undefeated this season, posting a record of 13-0. The team has an amazing offense and has posted more than 15 runs in six of its last 13 games.
“I am looking for our team to come together a little more and grow more comfortable with one another,” Schroeder said. “I am looking to our pitchers to lead us, and again with our bats to hit the ball and give us some extra bases. If our defense holds up, we could have a very successful weekend.”
Next the Gauchos will face the Big 12 powerhouse of Oklahoma State, who throws an undefeated record at UCSB as well at 12-0. The Cowboys have a dominant pitching staff that will pose problems for Santa Barbara’s hitters.
The last of the three teams is San Diego State, who may be the easiest team that the Gauchos face in their challenging weekend. The Aztecs are an all-around powerful team, except at the plate.
The Gauchos will then face Mississippi State and Okalahoma State for a second time to sum up the tournament. This tournament may be the toughest competition for the Gauchos yet to date, as all of the teams in the tournament are solid with usually strong softball programs.
“Our team improves every game. We are at about 90 percent, and in a few games, we hope to be at 110,” Hejna said.