Currently in a tight battle for first place in the Big West, Gaucho softball will now turn its attention to new conference foe UC Davis.
UCSB (25-20 overall, 8-4 in the Big West) travels north to La Rue Field to face the Aggies (20-30, 5-7 Big West) this weekend in a three-game series. Santa Barbara’s 8-7 win in game three against #17 Long Beach State (33-12, 9-3 Big West) at Campus Diamond last weekend was the Gauchos’ fourth one-run victory of the season.
“It’s great because they know that they can win the tight ones,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “And they also know now that they can hit whatever pitching is thrown at them – not that there was any doubt before. It’s certainly good to have payoff when we’re playing out games and have good energy so I think there is momentum going into [this] weekend.”
Against the 49ers, Santa Barbara was again guided by the offense of senior third baseman Tisha Duran and junior centerfielder Tiffany Wright who combined to go six-for-12 with three homeruns, five runs scored, and eight RBI. Duran, who currently leads the Big West in RBI (48) and slugging percentage (.750), hit her 13th homerun of the season to break the UCSB single season record on Sunday.
“I think every time she hits a homerun, her thought is on the team,” senior catcher Ericka Hansen said. “You know, helping the team get ahead and not so much for her personal record.”
The Gauchos also got strong performances from junior pitcher Tami Weston (8-5) and sophomore hurler MeLinda Matsumoto (7-8). Weston threw six scoreless innings in game two then picked up her first save of the season on Sunday in relief of Matsumoto who had finished 11 innings of work in two days with a 1-1 record.
Junior catcher Deanna Menapace is the most dangerous slugger for UC Davis as she holds the team lead for homeruns (six) and RBI (33), but senior left fielder Sarah O’Neill is three-for-five with five RBI in her last two games. Defensively, junior pitcher Jessica Hancock (14-17) boasts a team-best 2.42 ERA along with 197 strikeouts. The Aggies started their conference season with a 1-5 record, but have since won two-of-three in their past two series.
Only nine games remain for both teams, which makes wins more and more critical to earning a spot in Regionals.
“Every game is just as important,” Matsumoto said. “And it might seem like [Long Beach was] really big, but every game counts the same in the Big West so the small ones can get you.”