Despite rain and dreary weather, the UCSB softball team warmed the hearts of their fans with the team’s first Big West win yesterday.
In their return to conference play, the Gauchos (24-17 overall, 1-8 in the Big West) dropped two games to Cal State Northridge (16-19-1, 4-8 Big West) before taking the finale at Campus Diamond. UCSB saw a 5-1 defeat in the opening game, while game two was a heartbreaking loss as a seven-run lead was squandered in the 9-8 final. The home team then got some revenge with a 6-1 victory Sunday. Senior pitcher Jennifer Davis was 4-for-7 on the weekend with three home runs and four RBI.
The Gauchos fell behind 4-0 in the fourth inning of game one when freshman designated player Christina Saenz hit a grand slam to left-center. She then followed with a RBI double in the fifth that proved to be the difference despite Davis’s solo homerun in that same inning. Davis (8-11) suffered the loss even though she threw her 14th complete game and struck out 11 Matadors.
In game two UCSB jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings after sophomore centerfielder Tiffany Wright knocked a two-run homer to left field, followed by Davis who had her second solo shot. Junior third baseman Tisha Duran also contributed by reaching on an error in the first and hustling for an inside-the-park home run in the second. The Gauchos were comfortably in front 8-2 until the fifth when CSUN put a three-run rally together initiated by a triple from freshman left fielder Lauren Olivas. In the seventh, the Matadors scored four more runs to take the lead and would go on to win 9-8. Freshman hurler MeLinda Matsumoto (9-5) earned the loss, while junior pitcher Mercedes Lovato improved to 11-10 with wins in both of the day’s games.
“It’s not like teams are coming out and beating us, we’re beating ourselves,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “MeLinda didn’t throw as well as she usually does and then we gave up some runs because [Northridge] was hitting so everybody got tight again. It’s just sad to see them play like that because we have such a good team.”
UC Santa Barbara returned anew the following day as they fought through constant rain to wrap up the series with a win. A two-run blast from Davis put UCSB up 2-1 early before Duran extended the lead with a three-run homer in the fifth. Junior left fielder Nicole Churnock had an RBI double in the next inning to add insurance. On the mound, Davis threw a complete game one-hitter to shut down CSUN and after fanning nine Matadors on Sunday, the senior right-hander is now just 12 strikeouts shy of the Big West all-time career strikeout record set by Cal Poly’s Desarie Knipfer in 1998.
“I’m part of the lineup too so whenever we aren’t scoring, that’s me too,” Davis said. “Whether I’m pitching or not, I’m just trying to give us the best chance we can by getting ahead and staying ahead so it’s a little easier on us defensively.”
Next weekend, the Gauchos will be back on the road as they travel north to face Cal Poly for a three-game series.