The UCSB softball team was down and out in the Windy City, being eliminated from the Evanston Regional by Notre Dame 5-2 and by Southern Illinois University 4-2.
“I felt that it was a disappointing ending of the year. I definitely felt that we deserved to be here because we did so well in the pre-conference and we beat a lot of good teams. … We were in a lot of games but we really never found the will to win,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “Even when [junior pitcher] Jenn [Davis] came back and started throwing well, we – just as a team – we couldn’t get it going, and it was the story of the end of our season. We’re looking forward to next season and making those improvements so we can get that will to win back and have a complete year because I think we’ve yet to do that.”
After both pitchers faced just two over the minimum in the first two innings Friday, the Fighting Irish put the Gauchos in a deep hole. After three Notre Dame batters had reached on one walk and two hits, senior third baseman Meagan Ruthrauff hit a grand slam beyond the left field fence to put Notre Dame up 4-0.
Notre Dame tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth when senior shortstop Sara Schoonaert drove in freshman designated player Erin Glasco, who had reached on a hit to left, with a fly out to right.
The Gauchos got on board in the top of the fifth when junior left fielder Jessica Hejna hit a two-out solo shot to left. Junior shortstop Brittany Putich plated junior centerfielder Kendra Singley with a double to left to bring Santa Barbara within three runs.
Irish senior starting pitcher Heather Booth sealed the deal for Notre Dame, stifling the UCSB offense for the last two innings, holding eight batters to two hits, striking out three. Booth (26-10) finished the day giving up two earned runs on six hits, fanning nine Gaucho batters. Davis retired the sides in order in the fifth and sixth but it was too late for UCSB, getting the loss after allowing five earned runs.
“I don’t think either of the pitchers were over dominating; they were both hittable and I think we prepared for both of them so the players knew what they were going to be seeing,” Schroeder said. “We hit the ball pretty well [Friday] off the Booth kid, but we had some mental mistakes that took us out of the game, that cost us. [Saturday], we got on in a lot of the innings and got the runners to second base but we couldn’t find that hit.”
The Gauchos again fell behind early in the second game of Regionals against Southern Illinois on Saturday, when the Salukis’ first two batters came around to score on a triple by senior left fielder Lauren Roney in the top of the first. After the inning, Davis held Southern Illinois to two over the minimum batters faced, notching seven strikeouts.
Davis helped her cause offensively, plating the only Gaucho run of the game in the bottom of the second with an RBI single to left to score sophomore catcher Ericka Hansen. Saluki junior pitcher Cassidy Scoggins silenced the UCSB offense and gave up the one earned run on four hits with one walk.
“I think this loss was disappointing because I think we all know that we’re capable of beating [Southern Illinois], and moving to the next game and possibly having a chance at the championship team,” Davis said. “I think that everyone on the team has the experience of making it. I think the jitters of it being the first time, at least for the new people, will be gone and we’ll come [back] here with a lot more confidence.”