The UCSB softball team (12-11) will head to Fullerton for a loaded weekend of games at the Worth Invitational Tournament.
After three disappointing losses last week, two against UCLA and one versus San Diego State, the Gauchos look to rebound emphatically. UCSB will see Michigan State (8-3), Portland State (5-5), #18 Oregon State (15-6), #8 Stanford (13-5) and #3 Cal (17-2). Playing three top-20 teams this weekend will be a great challenge for the Gauchos, who feel their biggest weakness is a lack of team chemistry.
“I’m looking for our team to come together a little more and grow more comfortable with one another,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “I’m looking to our pitchers to lead us, and our bats to hit the ball and give us some extra bases. If our defense holds up, we could have a very successful weekend.”
With the majority of the team consisting of young players, including eight freshmen, the Gauchos have been banking on quick development from their youth.
As of late, freshman second baseman Brittany Putich has given the Gauchos recent power at the plate, batting .259 this season. Putich has also been stellar in the field, where she is sporting a .990 fielding percentage this season.
Freshman shortstop Kendra Singley has emerged as a potent force at bat, hitting .277 and four home runs this season. Singley’s emergence as a power hitter has moved her to the heart of the order, where the Gauchos will use her strength and pitch discretion.
“Kendra is a good hitter, and not guessing is her improvement. She swings the bat hard and if she is ready for any pitch, she can place the ball anywhere,” Schroeder said.
Freshman pitcher Jennifer Davis has been the all-around player the Gauchos need. Not only has Davis flourished in the role as the #1 pitcher. with a 2.21 ERA and a record of 6-6, but she has contributed at the plate as well. Davis is hitting .259, has chipped in two home runs and seems to be everywhere her team needs her to be.
Though the team is stacked with freshmen, the veterans are still the deciding factor. Seniors center fielder Davis Beck, right fielder Leslie Simien and junior third baseman Katie Oliver are trying each game to mold this young team into a championship caliber unit, and their ability to lead will be the key to challenging the three ranked teams this weekend.
“We worked with our pitchers this week and [are] working to really stay mentally focused and to take care of the little things: communicating out on the field and making sure we back up all the bases,” Schroeder said.
The goals this weekend are to upset as many of the ranked teams as possible and to defeat the teams that the Gauchos know they can beat. The first inning disease that has plagued the Gauchos this season will be the top concern in regards to building confidence and may set the tone for the entire tournament.
“One thing I stressed this week is playing the first inning tough. We can set the precedent for the rest of the game,” Schroeder said.