After two closely fought games against Cal Poly this weekend, the UC Santa Barbara softball team found itself in a similar situation Monday for the third time in three days.
This time though, the Gauchos (26-19 overall, 3-9 in the Big West) did not come away with the win after they were unable to complete a seventh-inning comeback against #13 Oregon State (36-18). The 3-2 final came shortly after the team was hit with the unfortunate news of an injury to senior shortstop Brittany Putich.
” [Putich] came in the dugout before the game after she had just found out her hand was broken,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “It was a hairline fracture, so with her out we had to make some changes defensively with [freshman infielder] Jessica Ziegler in her place.”
The game remained scoreless until the Beavers loaded the bases in the second inning on a single and a pair of fielding errors by UCSB. Freshman centerfielder Dani Chisholm was then hit by a pitch and, a passed ball later, Oregon State went up 2-0. Superb pitching from senior hurler Ta’Tyana McElroy (14-8) kept UCSB off the bases entirely through 4.2 innings and she would eventually finish the game allowing two runs on three hits and striking out four.
In the circle for the Gauchos was freshman right-hander MeLinda Matsumoto (9-6) who took the loss. Her eighth complete game of the season saw her give up three unearned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Matsumoto was filling in for senior pitcher Jennifer Davis (10-12) who was resting after partaking in each of the three games in the Cal Poly series.
“Jenn threw a ton of innings over the weekend so MeLinda looked good because she’s able to keep big, offensive teams off balance,” Schroeder said. “She threw a nice game, but [McElroy] was throwing a perfect game until [junior catcher Ericka] Hansen hit her in the fifth. In that last inning, we made a good run for it, but they put [senior pitcher Brianne McGowan] in and it was tougher.”
When the seventh inning rolled around, UCSB began its rally with back-to-back doubles from senior first baseman Jessica Hejna and junior third baseman Tisha Duran. The Beavers then made two critical defensive changes, bringing in McGowan and freshman catcher Tarah Black. On the following play, Davis hit an RBI single to close the gap to bring in one run before sophomore centerfielder Tiffany Wright grounded one back to the pitcher. Wright’s move forced Davis out at second base. Wright then attempted to steal second, but she was just barely thrown out by Black. A Hansen ground out concluded the game at 3-2.
“It was some intense ball against Cal Poly so everyone was really drained, and it took a lot more to play out there [today],” Schroeder said. “I believe Oregon State is a beatable team, we just needed better at-bats and to work their pitchers a bit more.”
With this game, UC Santa Barbara concludes nonconference play and finishes with a 4-4 record against ranked opponents this season. Up next for the Gauchos is a three-game series with UC Riverside this weekend.