The UCSB softball team is now the furthest it will be from home during the regular season.

Participating in the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., the Gauchos (7-7) begin with a doubleheader today against #12 Michigan (12-2) at 4 p.m. and Syracuse (0-8) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s action kicks off with North Carolina State (7-8) at 11 a.m. and #18 Mississippi State (13-2) at 4 p.m. In Sunday’s finale, Santa Barbara plays #19 DePaul (7-4) at 10 a.m.

Senior third baseman Tisha Duran continues to lead UCSB with five homeruns and 20 RBI after another stellar weekend where the Gauchos won four out of five games.

“She’s just been very steady,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “When she makes a mistake, she just shakes it off. She’s just been very consistent with her approach and at-bats.”

Senior left fielder Nicole Churnock also came alive offensively in the win over Portland State last Friday. She tied her career-high for hits with a three-for-three performance along with her first stolen base of the season.

The Gaucho offense has been hot of late as evidenced by the 26 runs it scored in the last four games, but UCSB will collide with a strong Michigan team that boasts Big Ten Player of the Week senior second baseman Samantha Findlay, who is batting over .410 with four homers and 15 RBI. The Wolverines are also dangerous on the mound with sophomore left-handed pitcher Nikki Nemitz who has dominated opponents with a 6-1 record and a 0.60 ERA.

On the other hand, Syracuse has struggled mightily this season, but Friday will be the first meeting ever between UCSB and the Orange. North Carolina State comes off its first home victory this past Wednesday and is led by freshman catcher Alyssa Allbritten with a .400 batting average and 10 RBI. A pair of Mississippi State hurlers, freshman Misty Fletcher and junior Chelsea Bramlett, have combined for a 12-2 record and 55 strikeouts. Finally, DePaul brings a more balanced attack with five players hitting .333 or better.

In a weekend with three out of five teams carrying national rankings, the Gauchos will have their work cut out for them.

“It’s been a little tough because we haven’t been winning as many games,” Galicinao said. “So people are pressing because they want it more. We just need to go back to basics and do what works.”