Campus Diamond serves as the site for a clash between the two softball teams currently atop the Big West standings this weekend.
Deadlocked in first place, UC Santa Barbara will face Long Beach State in a three-game series beginning on Saturday that will ultimately break the tie. The Gauchos come into the weekend 24-18 overall and 7-2 in the Big West, while Long Beach State (31-11, 7-2 Big West) returns to the road after a brief homestand versus Cal Poly (16-18, 4-5 Big West).
The Gauchos took one out of three against Cal State Northridge (16-19, 5-4 Big West) this past weekend, but the hot bats that lead the conference with a .291 batting average stayed on fire. Senior third baseman Tisha Duran moved one home run closer to the single season record previously set by Lindsey Herrin, and junior centerfielder Tiffany Wright continued her strong play going five-for-11 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored.
“Their performances have been pretty special,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “They have both been very relaxed, and the biggest difference for them is that they take their own approach to their at-bats no matter what the situation may be. It’s nice to have Tiffany come around in the clutch, and Tisha has been pretty clutch throughout the season.”
On Sunday, Santa Barbara responded both offensively and defensively to Saturday’s losses, as sophomore pitcher MeLinda Matsumoto (6-8) shutout the Matadors, while Wright and Duran drove in all four of the Gauchos’ runs.
“It’s tough to get through the meat of our order,” Galicinao said. “And the rest have been hitting too, so there aren’t really any spots for opposing pitchers to get comfortable. [We] have been able to put the ball into play, and it’s really a team effort. That’s what makes us exciting to watch.”
Long Beach State is led offensively by senior shortstop Jessica Beaver, who has hit four home runs on the season and has driven in 34 runs. A pair of right-handed pitchers in freshman Brooke Turner (20-4) sophomore Bridgette Pagano (11-7) guide the 49ers on the mound. Turner is tied for the nation’s best E.R.A. at 0.46 and has amassed 183 strikeouts. Behind her, Turner will also have a Long Beach State squad boasting the best team fielding percentage in the Big West at .972.
Saturday’s doubleheader kicks off with the first pitch set for 12 p.m., and the Sunday finale can be heard on KCSB 91.9 FM or at www.kcsb.org at the same start time.