The UCSB softball team needed two things to happen this weekend: a series victory over Cal State Fullerton and a Long Beach State sweep over Cal State Northridge.
The Gauchos (14-7 in the Big West, 32-29 overall) took two of three games this weekend from Cal State Fullerton (7-14, 18-34) to clinch second place in the Big West. This weekend’s wins pushed the Gauchos to the second place spot in an extremely competitive Big West conference.
“We have been doing well lately and have been scoring runs in the later innings, which have helped close out some wins,” freshman left fielder Jessica Hejna said. “Beating Fullerton this weekend was crucial in our hopes for postseason play. We all really want to go to regionals this season because we have worked so hard for the past nine months and we don’t want it all to go down the drain.”
Game one of the three-game set was a case of complete dominance by UCSB. An inspired Gaucho team cruised to a 7-0 victory. Freshman pitcher Jennifer Davis, who has been on fire as of late, kept the flames going as she threw her fourth one-hitter and ninth shutout of the season. Junior third baseman Katie Oliver scored two for the Gauchos in the fourth with a double to right center to bring the score to 3-0. Senior right fielder Leslie Simien, freshman catcher Shelby Hensler, freshman utility Brittany Putich and Hejna all accumulated two hits on the day to help the Gauchos take the tone-setting game one victory.
“If our pitching is on and our batters are patient at the plate, we can beat anybody,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “I think we are coming along now; playing to our ability. We had a downfall in the middle of the season, which may come back to haunt us.”
In game two, UCSB was handed a rude awakening by the Titans. Fullerton scored seven runs in a forgettable first inning, and another in the second after Santa Barbara responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first. Seemingly down and out with a six-run deficit, the Gauchos brought themselves back within one run courtesy of a five-run fourth inning.
Down 9-8 in the bottom of the seventh, the Gauchos had the tying run on first base with one out, but Titan pitcher Brooke Weekley retired the next two Gauchos to save the Titans from a full collapse.
“Game two just slipped away from us,” Hejna said. “We came out and gave up seven runs in the first inning. When a team does that it is pretty hard to come back.”
Fullerton came out swinging in the deciding game of the series, scoring two runs in the first inning off junior pitcher Lindsey Herrin. Herrin and the Gauchos did not take long to respond, though. In the latter half of the first, Herrin belted her record-breaking tenth round-tripper of the season in the grandest fashion. With the bases loaded, Herrin sent a towering shot toward the UCSB scoreboard at Campus Diamond, and with it broke UCSB’s single-season home run mark.
Again, the game came down to a tense seventh inning, but this time the Gauchos prevailed. Up 6-3, Titan outfielder Lindsey Bashor hit a two-run homer in the top of the inning, but Santa Barbara pitcher Davis remained composed, recording the final two outs of the inning to preserve the victory.
The weekend also marked several milestones for senior Simien. The veteran outfielder set the single season hit total record with her 60th of the year in game two, and also stole two more bases, propelling her to the 23rd spot in NCAA history.