UCSB softball returns to Campus Diamond for a critical pairing with the University of Pacific this weekend.

The Gauchos (26-22 overall, 9-6 in the Big West) will play their final three home games of the season against the Tigers (23-31 overall, 5-9 Big West) on Saturday and Sunday. Santa Barbara enters this homestand having taken three out of nine games in its past three conference series while Pacific has lost of six of its last seven and was shut out in four of those contests. With just six games remaining in the regular season and a chance for a Regional bid still at stake, Head Coach Brie Galicinao notes the importance of preparing in practices these days.

“We’ll just be making the most of our reps because with all we’ve been through, the season becomes a grind now,” Galicinao said. “The energy is good and everybody’s committed to winning. We just want to improve every day.”

As the Big West leaders in offense this season, the Gauchos are collectively batting a conference-leading .285 which, if it holds up, could break the current single season school record of .275 set in 1999. Santa Barbara also paces the Big West with 33 home runs, 179 RBI, 365 hits and 11 triples, among other categories, which is a drastic improvement from the UCSB team that batted a conference-low .248 one year ago. Galicinao credits new Assistant Coach Caitlin Benyi for the increased offensive productivity.

“[Benyi] brings new knowledge to the offense and [the Gauchos] have just been working really hard in practice,” Galicinao said. “The focus really hasn’t been the long ball; it’s always like get yourself on, let’s single them to death and then they just go out. So the mentality is just get on any way you can, and we’ve been having great success with them hitting it out. Those are just bonuses. The actual goal is just to string together a bunch of singles.”

Despite being seventh in the conference standings, Pacific presents a trio of strong hitters in sophomore first baseman Kellee Wilson, senior third baseman Alyce Jorgensen and freshman shortstop Nicole Matson. Wilson has 40 RBI, the most of any Tiger, while Jorgensen and Matson are tied for a team-leading six home runs. On the mound, junior Chelsea Engle (14-16), who maintains a 2.39 ERA, has tossed six shutouts in her 31 starts while striking out 155 batters this season.

This Sunday is “Senior Day” for UCSB and four seniors, first baseman Dani Baltazar, left fielder Nicole Churnock, designated player Danielle Meyers, third baseman Tisha Duran, and catcher Ericka Hansen will be honored prior to the first pitch of the series finale.

Saturday’s doubleheader is set to begin at 12 p.m. and the Sunday game can be heard on www.kcsb.org at 12 p.m. as well.