With its postseason hopes fading, the UCSB softball team makes one more push towards the NCAA Tournament this weekend, hosting Long Beach State in its final regular season play of the season.
The series will help determine the Big West champions as well as possible at-large bids. The 49ers (28-19 overall, 11-4 in the Big West) are tied for first place and the Gauchos (23-18, 7-8 Big West) are in fourth in the Big West.
“It’s not about coming out strong against Long Beach but coming out strong against anyone we play. I think our team has to maintain its focus throughout the whole game – we can’t get down on ourselves if we get behind,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “We’ve been able to score a lot of runs in different games; it’s about staying focused, playing one pitch at a time – that will give us the best chance to win.”
The Gauchos are currently riding a four-game winning streak after taking their first Big West series last weekend at UC Riverside. Junior pitcher Jenn Davis received Big West Pitcher of the Week accolades for her outstanding weekend against the last place Highlanders when she notched three complete game victories, giving up just one earned run to compile a .32 ERA on the week. Davis (17-13), who has a cumulative ERA of 2.73, is second in the Big West with 206 strikeouts.
“If Jenn can pitch the way she pitched last weekend, she’ll definitely be starting all three; that’s been the plan all year long because I know what’s she’s capable of,” Schroeder said.
Freshman leadoff hitter and second baseman Christine Ramos leads the Gauchos and is sixth in the Big West with her .341 batting average with junior outfielder Kendra Singley right behind her at .305. Junior shortstop Brittany Putich has been on a hot streak as of late – scoring in every game against Cal Poly two weeks ago and driving in what proved to be the game-winning run in the second game last Saturday in Riverside.
“[Putich] has been doing a great job so hopefully she’ll keep going up and there and being aggressive at the plate,” Schroeder said.
The 49ers are looking for their third consecutive Big West Championship but they could finish with an identical record to Cal State Fullerton, resulting in a co-championship. In that case, the Titans would get the automatic bid to the Big Dance, holding the tiebreaker after beating Long Beach twice this year. The Gauchos have a chance at capturing third place if they win this weekend and Cal Poly loses to fifth place Pacific, which has lost eight of its last nine.
“We did really well in pre-conference and the Regionals committee looks at that and how you do well at the end of the season,” Schroeder said. “I’m not going to say that if we win all three that we’re going to get a bid. Our conference has done a better job this year in playing tougher schedules all the way around and that will help our conference in getting more teams into Regionals.”
First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Campus Diamond.