Lately, the UCSB softball team (21-24, 4-2) has been playing its best softball of the season. This coming weekend things might get even easier as the Gauchos square off against UC Riverside (11-34, 1-5) at Amy S. Harrison Field.

Though UC Riverside poses a weak record this season, the amount of talent teams in the Big West Conference posses should leave no team overlooked. The Highlanders pose some challenges for the Gauchos’ pitching staff, especially with sophomore Melissa Sanchez batting .351 this season with four homeruns and 27 RBIs.

The Highlanders lost all three games of their series last weekend to Cal Poly and are 1-10 in their last 11 games.

Though the Highlanders should not pose too much of a threat for the Gauchos, Santa Barbara cannot afford to take any competition lightly.

In series like these, confidence can be a major factor, and Head Coach Kristy Schroeder feels her team can compete with anyone in the Big West.

“We are capable of beating any team in the conference, it just depends on what team decides to show up,” Schroeder said. ” I am confident in our team and the way we have been playing lately.”

As of late, the Gauchos have really turned some heads. With a ranking of #5 in the Softball Coaches’ Pre-Season Poll, the Gauchos are showing why they are contenders for the league title.

“We need strong hitting and defense to follow that up. We have been struggling a little bit but have seemed to turn some things around,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder has witnessed explosions from both the pitching staff and the hitting corps. Batting production has sprouted from freshman shortstop Kendra Singley, who went 2-4 with two RBIs, and senior right fielder Leslie Simien, who went 2-3 with one RBI last week. Simien also stole two bases, which put her at 110 swipes in her career; one shy of reaching the NCAA top 30 list in stolen bases. Singley has emerged as a star freshman this season. She has produced constant numbers at the plate and in the field.

Not only has the entire recently resurgent Gauchos offense led the way to victory, but there has also been major progress made on the mound in particular. With the emergence of junior fielder-turned-pitcher Lindsey Herrin, who posts a 3-1 record with a 1.72 ERA, the Gauchos have been able to establish high-quality innings of play. Herrin also received her first save last weekend when she closed out a crucial game against the University of the Pacific. Also, freshman pitcher Jennifer Davis has pitched 127 innings this season and will utilize all the support she receives from Herrin’s new starting job.