A rolling Gaucho offense was stalled this past weekend when defending Big West champion Cal State Fullerton swept the UCSB softball team in three games.
Opening up conference play against the Titans (21-15 overall, 3-0 in the Big West), the Gauchos (20-11, 0-3 in Big West) dropped a 10-inning 3-1 heartbreaker before being hit by a wave of runs in their second game on Saturday, falling 11-4. In Sunday’s conclusion, Fullerton quickly opened up a lead and never looked back in its 5-0 victory. UC Santa Barbara struggled to put runs on the board early in each of its three games.
Senior right-handed pitcher Jennifer Davis (4-8) had a very strong showing on Saturday with 11 strikeouts in 10 innings of work despite giving up three runs on six hits. UCSB was first on the board in the fourth inning, but a homerun by Titan senior outfielder Ashley Van Boxmeer knotted the game at one run apiece in the sixth. Stellar pitching on both sides followed for the next four innings before a two-run homer from junior third baseman Jessica Doucette put Fullerton up 3-1 in the tenth to wrap up the game.
“[Davis] definitely is a great pitcher, but it’s been a shame this year because every time she’s on the mound we don’t give her a lot of runs so we make it real tough on her,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said.
Fullerton exploded for six runs in the fifth inning of the second game and UCSB freshman right-hander MeLinda Matsumoto fell to 9-2 with the loss. The Titans added four more runs to their lead to end with an 11-4 win. Despite the Titan onslaught, Davis came through offensively for the Gauchos with a three-run homer in the seventh.
“I thought MeLinda [Matsumoto] threw well and she got the ground balls that she needed. We just didn’t make all the defensive plays, and everything they hit just seemed to find a hole,” Schroeder said. “Both their pitchers spin the ball pretty well, so we needed to make some adjustments at the plate. We had to score runs at some point during the game and we finally made those adjustments when we were down 11-0, but I was happy that we did that.”
UCSB was in danger early on Sunday as the Titans loaded the bases in the first, but Davis only allowed one run and ended the inning on two consecutive strikeouts. Fullerton’s Doucette was the hero again, however, as she blasted another two-run bomb in the second. Titan junior Kiki Munoz hit a two-run homer of her own in the fifth while senior hurler Candice Baker rose to 13-8 with her shutout.
“We asked a lot of [Davis] this weekend, she had to pitch a lot of games and throw a lot of pitches,” junior catcher Ericka Hansen said. “She threw really well, but she can’t do everything so that’s why we need everyone else to step up and put runs on the board for her.”