Imagine you’re off to play the #1 team in the nation. You have a chance to upset the best team in the United States and prove to the world that you can compete with the best. If you’re the UCSB softball team, that imagination is a reality.
Santa Barbara (11-8 overall) will try and upset #1 UCLA (13-0) on Saturday in a doubleheader and then finish the weekend with two home games against San Diego State University (10-7).
Coming off a rained-out weekend of games and an entire week of on-and-off practices due to the weather, the team feels it has become mentally stronger and has worked on the areas in need of improvement.
“We worked with our pitchers this week and worked to really stay mentally focused to take care of the little things,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “Communicating out on the field and making sure we back up all the bases is a main concern this weekend.”
The Gauchos got a glimpse of what top caliber teams look like last weekend during a 7-2 loss to California. However, in order to knock off the top team in the land, Santa Barbara will have to get out of the first inning without any problems. So far this season, that hasn’t been an easy task.
“Our biggest problem in the past is the first inning. Most of the time it’s just playing smart softball,” Schroeder said. “We are always trying to play catch-up, and one thing I stressed this week is playing the first inning tough so we can set the precedent for the rest of the game.”
UCLA, the 2003 Division I College Softball World Series Champion team, has a solid lineup one through nine and an excellent pitching staff, led by senior Keira Goerl. The Gauchos will try to throw standout pitcher Jennifer Davis at the Bruins in hopes of seeing if this amazing freshman can pull through against the best team in the country.
“They have some young players on their team, and since last season, they lost a few players as well,” Schroeder said. “This would be the year if any to beat UCLA.”
On Sunday, UCSB will face SDSU, who lost to the Gauchos earlier in the season in a nail-biter 1-0 in eight innings. Senior left fielder Davis Beck, who is currently on fire at the plate, won the SDSU game by driving in the game-winning run in the top of the eighth.
“We are pretty evenly matched against San Diego State. It would be great to sweep them,” Schroeder said.
Santa Barbara is looking for a strong weekend, and coming away with four wins is ideal. If the Gauchos can get through the first inning of each game without allowing a run, they feel they can be a force to be reckoned with.