Just like that, the dream is over.
In the first day of the NCAA Regionals, the Santa Barbara softball team was bounced from the Tucson Tournament after an opening round loss to Northwestern 8-1 and a consolation bracket loss to Temple University.
“It’s bittersweet and it would have been cool [to win] but it’s a good way to end,” senior center fielder Davis Beck said. “It’s exciting we made it this far.”
After an overwhelming game-one loss in which the Gauchos could only muster four hits, the frustration continued against the Owls in the elimination game. With their backs to the walls, UCSB was held to one hit in the shutout loss. The Owls’ freshman pitcher Rochelle Villescas rolled over the Gauchos, not allowing a hit until the sixth inning.
The loss ends the Gauchos’ season, a year in which they reached the postseason for the first time in school history, recorded the highest finish in the Big West ever and won 30 games for the second year in a row.
“It’s a good ending,” Assistant Coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “It shows that we’ve made changes for the better. Its something to build upon for the future.”
In the first game, senior right fielder Leslie Simien led off the game with a single down the left field line, then quickly stole second to give her team a promising start. Freshman catcher Shelby Hensler was beaned with Simien on second, giving the Gauchos two on and no out, but Northwestern pitcher Courtney Foster quickly distinguished Santa Barbara’s fire, retiring the next three batters.
From that point on, the game was all Wildcats. Freshman All Big-West honoree Jennifer Davis retired the first two batters in the bottom half of the first, but Northwestern quickly mounted a rally thereafter. Wildcat Kristen Amegin lined a hard double into left-center to plate Garland Cooper from first base.
UCSB knotted the score in the top of the third, but lost it shortly after in the bottom of the inning when the Wildcats bit for two runs courtesy of two walks and a towering double from the bat of NU catcher J.C. Kira.
The Wildcats busted the game open in the fourth inning, striking for three more runs to put the game further from the reach of Santa Barbara. Down 8-1 in their last at-bat, freshman shortstop Kendra Singley sent a shot into the gap in right-center and legged it out for a triple. Senior first baseman Heather Nobbe then reached base thanks to her school record-breaking seventh hit-by-pitch. Foster was determined to finish what she started and induced junior pitcher/utility Lindsey Herrin to pop out.
The Gauchos finish their season with a record of 32-31 while the losses mark the conclusion of the careers of seniors Simien, Nobbe, Katie Junge, and Beck.