The UCSB softball team pulled off a sweep in Riverside as it won its first Big West Conference series of the season. The Gauchos (23-18 overall, 7-8 in the Big West) took all three games from the last-place Highlanders (22-24, 2-13 Big West) 4-0 and 2-1 on Saturday and 2-1 in eight innings Sunday.

“I think it’s difficult to take three from any team and I thought our team did a nice job. [Sunday] Jenn pitched her best. [Saturday] our team played better overall … all in all, they’re making some great plays,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “Shelby Hensler had a great series against UCR, she really made some great plays, really helped us out. We’re feeling a little bit more confident, we needed those three wins.”

Neither team scored until the fifth inning in game one of Saturday’s twin bill when freshman first baseman Tiffany Wright knocked out her sixth home run of the season to put Santa Barbara up 1-0. UC Riverside’s defense fell apart in the top of the sixth, giving up three unearned runs on four infield throwing errors.

Sophomore catcher Ericka Hansen got things started for UCSB in the first inning of game two with an RBI double to left center, driving in junior left fielder Jessica Hejna. Junior shortstop Brittany Putich plated the game-winner with a single to the left in the fifth inning, bringing junior center fielder Kendra Singley around to score.

The Highlanders threatened in the bottom of the sixth when sophomore shortstop Kristie Martinez hit a solo shot over the center field fence to bring Riverside to within one. Junior pitcher Jenn Davis silenced the following Highlander hitters and earned her 16th win of the season.

“Jenn’s giving us a great outing and holding the other team to very few runs and that’s what we want and we don’t have that many games left,” Schroeder said. “[She’s] been focusing on pitching to one batter at a time and not necessarily letting errors or bloop hits bother her so much – she’s freeing it up a little bit more and throwing her game.”

In Sunday’s series finale, the Gauchos capitalized on a Riverside throwing error to plate their first run in the top of the fourth. A UCSB throwing error by sophomore right fielder Nicole Churnock in the bottom of the seventh brought around sophomore center fielder Veronica Yee and pushed the game into extra innings.

Singley came through for Santa Barbara in the top of the eighth with an RBI single to score Churnock, who had reached on a fielder’s choice. Davis (17-13) pitched her third complete game of the weekend, only allowing three hits and had no earned runs. In 22 complete innings, Davis only gave up just one earned run on eight hits.

“Our team is trying not to focus on winning each game but doing the things we’re supposed to do. If we can focus on doing the things we’re supposed to, then it’ll give us a better chance to win,” Schroeder said. ” It was nice to get out there and play our game and I thought the team had a lot of fun this weekend but they maintained focus, too. Now we can start focusing on our first game against Long Beach on Friday.”

UCSB hosts first place Long Beach State next Friday and Saturday in the final Big West series of the year.