For the third time in four years, the UC Santa Barbara softball team finds itself amid the excitement of postseason play.
UCSB (30-21 overall, 7-11 in the Big West) starts off the Los Angeles Regional with a game against the University of Hawaii at Manoa (46-11) today. The Gauchos finished the season going 7-3 in conference and received one of 35 at-large bids along with four other teams from the Big West. Host UCLA (36-16) and Loyola Marymount (45-16), two teams that Santa Barbara defeated this year, round out the competition in the Southern California Regional, which will follow a double-elimination format.
“I like our chances but obviously all the Regionals are tough no matter who we play,” Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said. “We’re familiar with each one of those teams, so that’s a plus for us. It’s nice that we’re playing down in UCLA because we’re familiar with the field and hopefully we’ll have more fans there. I’m happy for our players and I’m happy for our seniors. For them, it’s been three out of four years that they’ve gone, so that’s quite a feat.”
The seniors have all accomplished a great deal at UCSB, but for right-handed pitcher Jennifer Davis (14-14), the accolades continued to roll in even after the regular season. On Wednesday, Davis became the first Gaucho ever to be named Big West Pitcher of the Year. Her conference-leading 1.35 ERA and 203 strikeouts make her dangerous in the circle, and she will likely throw as many games as possible. Davis joins two other teammates receiving honors, junior third baseman Tisha Duran and sophomore second baseman Christine Ramos who were chosen for the All-Big West First Team, but the awards are secondary now that Santa Barbara is in the postseason.
“We just have to take one game at a time and focus on Hawaii,” Schroeder said. “Every team you play from here on out is a great team so we just have to play our game and play every inning out there.”
Davis will have her hands full today, facing either sophomore hurler Justine Smethurst (17-8) who carries a 1.72 ERA or junior right-hander Kate Robinson who boasts a 15-1 record this year along with a 1.76 ERA. These two pitchers were named to the All-West Region First Team, along with senior first baseman Tyleen Tausaga and sophomore third baseman Clare Warwick. Tausaga hit .407 on the season to go with 51 RBI while Warwick batted .385 and led the team with 75 hits. To the Gauchos’ credit, however, UCSB faced eight ranked teams this year and came away with four victories.
“Our team is excited about this chance and we have a lot of people who have tough postseason experience so hopefully that will bode well for us,” Schroeder said. “It’s not the first time we’re stepping out there, so [the players] know what to expect. We’ve been here before, we’re older now and we want to win some games.”
The first pitch of the Los Angeles Regional is set for 2:30 p.m. at UCLA’s Easton Stadium.