The UCSB softball team looks to return to its winning ways this weekend following a rough series against the defending Big West champions.
After being swept by Cal State Fullerton over the past weekend, the Gauchos (20-11 overall, 0-3 in the Big West) will try to put the losses behind them as they travel north to face the University of Pacific for a doubleheader on Friday and the final game on Saturday. UC Santa Barbara embarks on the first of its three conference road trips and is still operating at a high level of confidence.
“I’m not worried about our team, we’re a scrappy team and we play well together,” junior catcher Ericka Hansen said. “I think this weekend was just a wakeup call that we need to work a little harder. These three games aren’t going to determine the rest of our season.”
Pacific (24-12 overall) is now amid an eight-game homestand and they have yet to begin conference play. The Tigers are coming off a two-game split against #25 Fresno State, whom UCSB will face next week. Pacific is led by a pair of seniors: centerfielder Gina Carbonatto and first baseman Jennifer Curtier, who bat .446 and .391 respectively. The opening game will likely feature a duel between two strong pitchers who both currently hold 100 strikeouts on the season. Tiger right-handed hurler Chelsea Engle (13-9) takes her 3.38 ERA up against the Gauchos’ senior righty Jennifer Davis, who despite being 4-8 is currently pacing the Big West with a 1.49 ERA.
“We played better defense for Jenn [Davis], but she knows these batters as a senior,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “We want her to take a lead on the mound and that’s why we want her out there.”
While UCSB’s bats were relatively quiet last weekend – scoring only five runs in three games – the top of the order continues to have success getting on base. Sophomore second baseman Christine Ramos leads the team with an on-base percentage of .431 [[ok]] and had her eight-game hitting streak end during the Fullerton series. Backing her up has been senior first baseman Jessica Hejna, who ranks third in the Big West with 16 sacrifice bunts this year. The Gauchos will be looking for run production from the middle of the order to help get on the board early and take pressure off their pitchers.
“We just need to make the adjustments at the plate and defensively sooner,” Hansen said. “Hitting and fielding are contagious, so if we can make adjustments early, we’ll do better for the rest of the game.”
Friday’s first pitch against the Tigers is set for 12 p.m. at Bill Simoni Field.