The UCSB softball team is hoping to catch a break this weekend, traveling to last-place UC Riverside for its final road conference series of the year. The Gauchos (20-18 overall, 4-8 in the Big West) have failed to win a conference series and sit in sixth place, just one rung above the Highlanders.

“I was happy with our play in our last game against Cal Poly,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “I’m just hoping that we can keep our focus right on doing everything in the present so that we’re playing well these next two weekends – staying focused, doing things we’re supposed to do, hustling out there, talking it up out there. We haven’t been getting it done. We can’t take anybody lightly.”

After dropping the first two games of last weekend’s series to Cal Poly and amassing six errors Saturday, Santa Barbara came out strong last Sunday and defeated the Mustangs 9-5 after a lucrative six-run sixth inning. One of the only consistent aspects of the weekend was UCSB’s base running, with 11 stolen bases, including a season-high seven in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader.

“If we can take advantage of the catcher, we’re going to do that,” Schroeder said. “Hopefully we’ll score a lot of runs.”

The freshman starters have not shown their inexperience as of late, with second baseman Christine Ramos flourishing in the leadoff position, batting a team-high .331. First baseman Tiffany Wright has had a hot bat in the clean-up spot, blasting five homers – the fourth highest ever for a Gaucho freshman.

The school record watch for junior center fielder Kendra Singley is still going strong. Singley knocked out two more jacks last weekend to bring her season count to seven. Singley has six more games to tie or break the single season record of 10 round-trippers.

Even though the Highlanders (22-21 overall, 2-10 Big West) are the bottom dwellers in terms of standings, several of their players lead the conference statistically. Senior infielder Melissa Sanchez leads the Big West with a .466 batting average and junior shortstop Kristie Martinez is first in the conference with 41 RBI.

“We’re definitely not going in there like they’re last place; we’re going in there thinking we’re going to try and play one game at a time,” Schroeder said.

First pitch for Saturday’s doubleheader at Amy S. Harrison Field is slated for 12 p.m.