The UCSB softball team will try to show its worth against three ranked opponents this weekend in Fullerton’s Worth Invitational, one of the top softball tournaments in the nation.

“The Worth Invitational always gets a lot of good teams – playing the best competition can prepare you for conference,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “I think we have a strong team and are capable of beating anybody. I’m excited that we’re in this difficult competition, it’ll let us know where we are and maybe we’ll get over that hump and beat some of those teams.”

The Gauchos (7-5 overall) are fresh off of playing high caliber teams after competing in last weekend’s Palm Springs Classic. Santa Barbara played against three ranked opponents, finishing with a 2-3 record on the weekend.

“This weekend’s teams are not any more difficult than we faced in Palm Springs – Oregon State, we actually split with them last year and have a similar team, and Northwestern [University], they’re strong but we saw them in at Regionals two years ago,” Schroeder said. “Every team is going to be tough but I definitely think we can compete and hopefully pick off a couple of teams.”

UCSB’s weekend begins on Friday against #16 Northwestern (8-4), whose senior third baseman Kristen Amegin leads the team hitting .382 with four round-trippers and 12 RBIs. Friday evening, the Gauchos take on #9 Oregon State (13-2) and its 13-game winning streak, boosted by a 5-0 showing in Palm Springs.

Saturday, Santa Barbara will warm up against unranked Loyola University Chicago before taking on its hardest competition of the weekend in #5 Stanford. Freshman Missy Penna, who boasts a 1.23 ERA in 57 innings of work with 67 strikeouts, will be in the circle for the Cardinal (14-3).

The Gauchos close out their weekend with Purdue (8-6), which will also be coming off a weekend of difficult competition.

Junior hurlers Jennifer Davis and Ginger Gutierrez will start the first two games for the Gauchos with freshman Tami Weston possibly seeing time as well. After playing 13 games together, the Santa Barbara team has gelled as a unit and Schroeder feels confident in their abilities.

“I feel really good about our defense – we’ve been playing real strong and we maybe struggled in one game,” Schroeder said. “I feel great about our infield and outfield, we’ve been making some phenomenal plays.”