The Gauchos fought valiantly, but it wasn’t enough against the softball powerhouse that is #13 Fresno State.
On Tuesday afternoon, UC Santa Barbara (23-16 overall, 6-0 in the Big West) dropped two nonconference games to the Bulldogs (37-7 overall). UCSB stayed close in game one and finished with a 5-2 loss before Fresno State put up nine runs on 12 hits for a 9-5 victory in the second contest.
“We played better the last couple of weekends than we did today,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “We definitely wanted to take these games, but we had a little bit of a different approach. You kind of take away some of the small victories in these games. It’s just a game at a time here. And the only sure thing is that we need to play every game hard and we can only control how we do.”
The Bulldogs struck first in game one with a three-run third inning, but UCSB got one back in their half as senior third baseman Tisha Duran hit an RBI single. Fresno State put together a two-run response in the fourth, but senior catcher Ericka Hansen then hit a solo home run to right field, making the score 5-2 by the end of the fourth inning. Santa Barbara would not come any closer as Fresno State’s freshman pitcher Morgan Melloh (26-4), one of the best in the country, started rolling and finished with seven strikeouts.
“She kept us off-balance and we were helping her,” Galicinao said. “She does a good job of hitting her spots and mixing in different speeds and different movements, but [the Gauchos] did a good job of hitting singles, working their at-bats and getting pitches they could hit.”
The second game featured more scoring than the first as the Bulldogs had established a 6-run lead by the fourth inning. UCSB was able to crack Melloh in the fourth after Duran hit a RBI groundout and the Gauchos rallied home four consecutive runs in the fifth inning with a RBI single from junior second baseman Christine Ramos, a two-run double by sophomore first baseman Jessica Ziegler and an RBI single by junior centerfielder Tiffany Wright, the Big West Player of the Week. Melloh would then close the door by striking out four of six Gauchos in the final two innings to finish the game 9-5. Junior hurler Tami Weston (8-3) got the start, but yielded four home runs and eventually took the loss.
“I wanted Tami to get some work in against a good-hitting team because we have conference this weekend and there are good hitters in our conference,” Galicinao said. “There were a couple of times where the bases were loaded and she was able to work out of a few jams.”
Santa Barbara returns to Big West play when it heads south to face Cal State Northridge for a three-game series beginning this Saturday.