Despite losing a “meeting of the mounds” series with Long Beach State over the weekend, the Gauchos are officially headed to Regionals.
The UC Santa Barbara softball team finished the regular season 30-21 overall, 7-11 in the Big West following three spectacularly pitched contests against the 49ers. Long Beach (28-25, 11-7 Big West) won two out of the three games, but that did not stop UCSB from heading to the postseason, after being selected to compete in the Los Angeles Regional.
Game one at the 49er Softball Complex saw Gauchos’ senior right-handed pitcher Jennifer Davis (14-14) and Long Beach freshman hurler Bridgette Pagano (20-11) each start with four scoreless innings. But the 49ers loaded the bases in the fifth inning, and two singles coupled with an error allowed three runs to score without the ball ever leaving the infield. Long Beach hung on to the 3-0 lead for good as Pagano notched the shut out win, giving up four hits and fanning six batters.
“Pagano threw well and we didn’t hit real well [this weekend],” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “We needed to get up on the ball more, but she was throwing hard, jamming right-handed hitters inside, and keeping us off balance.”
Santa Barbara got its revenge with a 2-1 victory in round two Friday between Davis and Pagano. Four innings would again transpire without a run before senior right fielder Liz Walters earned a walk and Schroeder called upon injured senior shortstop Brittany Putich to replace her on the base path. A sacrifice bunt and an out later, Putich stood on second with two down. Junior third baseman Tisha Duran then stepped to the plate and drove her home with a single to left field.
The Gauchos scored another crucial run in the seventh when Pagano walked Davis with the bases loaded. Despite a homerun by 49er junior designated player Jessica Beaver in the bottom of the inning, Davis hung on for the win after her second complete game, tallying six strikeouts in all.
“It was a pitcher’s duel all weekend; we just couldn’t pull it out in the end,” Schroeder said. “Both [Davis and Pagano] pitched really well, and there were only a few hits on both sides. [Pagano] did the same thing all series, and we couldn’t adjust to her style.”
In UCSB’s final game of the regular season, Pagano trumped the competition by allowing just two hits and no runs. Davis gave up three hits and one earned run off a homerun to right field from sophomore centerfielder Brianna Goad in the second inning. The Santa Barbara sixth inning saw senior first baseman Jessica Hejna maintain her 10-game hitting streak as she reached first base on a single, but the Gauchos failed to score against Pagano who earned the 1-0 victory for Long Beach.
“We were hitting hard in the last few innings, but it was too late and even though Tisha hit that line shot with Hejna on, we couldn’t make it,” Schroeder said. “We didn’t have a bad series; we just couldn’t hit the ball.”
On Selection Sunday, UCSB earned a spot in the Los Angeles Regional, and will begin with a match-up against the University of Hawaii at Manoa (46-11) on Friday, May 18th at UCLA.