A break from conference play may be just what the UCSB softball team needs right now.
The Gauchos (20-14 overall, 0-6 in the Big West) are coming off of two rough series against Cal State Fullerton and University of Pacific. After being swept for the second weekend in a row, UC Santa Barbara will collide with #25 Fresno State (32-13) tomorrow in a pair of games that will not affect their position in the Big West standings.
“Maybe we’ll relax a bit against Fresno State because we have nothing to lose since it isn’t conference play,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “I think we need to focus on competing more because we may be putting too much pressure on ourselves.”
Santa Barbara lost two games each in the eighth inning and each by one run on Friday against the Pacific. Then on Saturday, despite some quality throwing from freshman right-handed pitcher MeLinda Matsumoto (9-3), the Tigers still managed to plate a winning run late in the game. Walks were a nightmare for the Gauchos as their hurlers combined to issue 18 free passes over the course of the three games.
“We didn’t play solid defense and had some mental mistakes as well as some miscommunication,” Schroeder said. “It comes down to someone having to step up and both teams had similar opportunities, we just couldn’t come through.”
Fresno State returns home after winning six of their last seven games including a pair of doubleheaders against Pacific and Saint Mary’s last week. Junior first baseman Kristin Sylvester leads Fresno State offensively with a .384 average and has a team-leading 34 RBI. Sophomore shortstop Haley Perkins bats just behind Sylvester at .380 and paces the team with 57 hits for the season. Right-handed hurler Robin Mackin (24-6) leads Fresno State with 24 complete games and 10 shutouts on the year.
UCSB will need another strong pitching display from senior right-hander Jennifer Davis (4-10) who has thrown well all season, but was charged with two losses this weekend in relief. The Gauchos did have a bright spot at the plate in sophomore second baseman Christine Ramos. Ramos went 5-for-12 against Pacific and currently leads the team in several statistical categories including a .389 batting average, 44 hits and 24 runs.
UC Santa Barbara is 15-1 when they are the first to score and 13-1 when their runner comes home in the first three innings, so getting on the board early will be crucial for the Gauchos’ success.
The first pitch of the two-game series is set for 6 p.m. at Bulldog Diamond in Fresno, Calif.