Long Beach State showed the UCSB softball team how a conference championship is won this weekend in sweeping fashion.
The #24-ranked 49ers (36-14 overall, 16-2 in the Big West) claimed the outright title to the Big West, winning by counts of 6-2, 8-1 and 2-1 over the Gauchos (26-19, 9-9 Big West).
“Saturday wasn’t our best day and that was a pretty frustrating game. But today, even though we lost, we came back and played really well and we were positive about it,” sophomore pitcher Jennifer Davis said. “The way today’s game turned out was unlucky. I don’t think that we were so disappointed in today as we were [on Saturday], but they’re a good team and they’re leading the conference.”
Santa Barbara came out swinging, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Saturday’s starter when sophomore outfielder Jessica Hejna came around on an error. Long Beach returned the favor when leadoff batter senior center fielder Lauren Johnson hit a solo shot over the center field fence to tie the game. With Long Beach leading 3-1 in the sixth, the Gauchos rallied as freshman catcher Brenda Lira plated junior third baseman Karyna Wilkerson, but Long Beach was stronger in its half of the inning, scoring three runs.
“I think it really comes down to our hitting; we didn’t hit like we did last weekend and that makes a difference with team that has really solid defense,” Davis said.
Senior hurler Meredith Cervenka earned her 21st victory of the season for the 49ers, giving up one earned run on five hits and striking out six. Davis and sophomore Carly Harmon split time in the circle, but Davis got the loss after allowing three runs on four hits.
In game two of Saturday’s double feature, the Gauchos got on the board first in the second inning when Wilkerson plated Davis, who reached on a fielder’s choice, to give UCSB the 1-0 lead. The Beach scored once in the second and twice in the third before bringing around five in the fourth, all with two outs.
Starting senior pitcher Marcel Torres froze the Gauchos, giving up six hits while sophomore starter Lindsey Sommer got the loss and was credited with all eight earned runs.
With Saturday’s victories ensuring a share in the Big West title, the 49ers were looking to secure it Sunday in the final game of the series. Santa Barbara scored first when sophomore infielder Kendra Singley plated sophomore shortstop Brittany Putich in the third. Senior infielder Oli Keohohou provided run support for the 49ers, putting a pitch from Davis to tie the game at one apiece.
“If we hit as good as we did against CSUN, it would have been different, but the lack of offense this weekend make it hard for us to produce runs,” Davis said.
Davis and Cervenka helped keep the bats quiet in extra innings. In the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded, Keohohou drove in the decisive run, singling in senior outfielder Lindsay Marksbury. Cervenka improved to 22-6 while Davis dropped to 13-10 overall.
Long Beach State earns the automatic bid to NCAA Regionals with the series win and will finish up its season next weekend at Riverside, while the Gauchos travel to Cal Poly on Friday and Saturday in hopes of earning a trip to the postseason.