If the weekend’s series against UC Davis was any indication of a future Big West rivalry, then collegiate sports fans are in for more excitement next year.
Santa Barbara’s softball team (23-15 overall, 0-6 in Big West) went 2-1 in the Saturday and Sunday series, but a total of three runs decided the final two games collectively. UCSB put up a myriad of runs in the first game, which ended with a 9-1 mercy victory in the bottom of the sixth. The Aggies (25-16-1), however, shook up their roster a bit and snatched a 2-0 victory in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The third game saw both teams fight through nine scoreless innings to finally conclude with a Gaucho 1-0 win.
“I was happy with the first game and we had good at bats,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “[UC Davis] has a good record and they’ve beaten some decent teams, but I think that we are good enough this year that we shouldn’t be so up and down.”
In game one, the Gauchos loaded the bases in the second inning and an unusual throwing error from the Aggies’ catcher allowed all three runners to come home. Two innings later, sophomore second baseman Christine Ramos and junior left fielder Nicole Churnock pushed the lead to 5-0 with consecutive RBI doubles. The advantage increased to 7-0 in the next two innings, supporting senior right-handed pitcher Jennifer Davis (7-10), who only gave up one run on four hits and while fanning 10 Aggies.
“I haven’t had that [cushion] in a while this season so it felt really good to go out there breathe, relax and throw my game,” Davis said.
UC Davis sophomore pitcher Jessica Hancock (12-8) gave UCSB some problems, shutting out the Gauchos in game two and giving up only two hits with seven strikeouts. Scoreless through three, the Aggies used some small-ball to earn two runs in the top of the fourth in what would make the difference as the Gauchos struggled at the plate. Freshman right-hander MeLinda Matsumoto fell to 9-4 on the season, but junior catcher Ericka Hansen finished the day strong going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run against her former team.
“With any game, you go in with a level head and the desire to win,” Hansen said. “There is the added bonus of beating your old rival team, but the biggest thing in games like these is to not let your emotions get the best of you. It’s important to come out with the same desire to play in every game.”
Sunday featured a true pitchers’ duel as Jenn Davis faced senior Lindsay Tognetti (12-6) for the second day in a row. At one point in the game, Davis had retired 18 consecutive Aggies while Tognetti had a 10-out run of her own. The contest ended in classic Gaucho fashion when Ramos singled to start off the bottom of the 10th inning. Senior first baseman Jessica Hejna was then able to lay down a sacrifice bunt that moved Ramos to second. Junior third baseman Tisha Duran eventually drove in the winning run with an RBI double.
UCSB returns to Big West play when it welcomes Cal State to Campus Diamond next weekend for a three-game series.