The UCSB softball team will be on the hunt for some worms this weekend in the Early Bird Tournament. The event brings to town some tough competition in the shape of #16 Oregon State and the University of New Mexico.
The Beavers defeated Santa Barbara 4-3 in last year’s Early Bird Tournament and return all but two of their players. The Beavers’ top pitcher Monica Hoffman, who posted a 1.56 ERA last season in 260 innings of work, leaves a large hole to fill. But Oregon also brings catcher Lisa Allen, who ripped a three-run jack off of UCSB junior pitcher Carly Harmon last February. Oregon pitchers Ta’Tyana McElroy and Brianne McGowan both earned victories over the Gauchos in meetings last season.
“Oregon State will be hard just because they’re ranked in the national polls and the top 25 and returning a lot of starters. They play in the Pac-10 and the coach has done a good job there,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “That will definitely be our toughest competition, but we can’t take New Mexico lightly though either because they have a new coach there and have done some things to improve their program.”
New Mexico returns just seven players and lost 11 from the 2004 team, which went 30-35 and fell in the second round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Senior Ashley Perkins, the only returning pitcher, put up a 3.03 ERA last season — second for the Lobos.
“This week we’ve been putting our team into a little bit more competition-type situations with a little bit more scrimmaging,” Schroeder said. “We have the athletes to play, we just have to want to compete and get that fire, so we’ve been working on everyone hustling and keeping good positive energy.”
UCSB pitchers senior Lindsey Herrin, Harmon and sophomore Jenn Davis will all see time in the circle this weekend in the three games against New Mexico and two against Oregon State. Davis pitched a complete game one versus UCLA with 13 hits and five strikeouts. UCLA rocked Herrin’s fastball for four earned runs after seven batters in game two.
“With the UCLA games behind me, the first game jitters are out and I think I’ll be a lot more comfortable knowing that I have my control and have faced some really good hitters and know what’s working and not working,” Davis said.
Herrin scored the only run in game one for Santa Barbara, belting a homer for her first of the year, and sophomore Kendra Singley jacked one of her own to put the Gauchos on the board in game two. Singley and sophomore Brittany Putich will most likely play second and short again, respectively, after starting all of last year at the reverse positions. The Gauchos committed three errors Sunday and have also focused on their offense this week.
“We’ve been working on presence and confidence in our team. We’re getting ready to play as a team and together. Since we have a great defensive team we’ve been working on out offense this week,” UCSB sophomore outfielder Liz Walters said.
First pitch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. today with games on Saturday and Sunday.