Although each Gaucho wore a “Play Like It’s Sunday” ribbon on their shoes this weekend, Saturday turned out to be the better day for UCSB.
The Gaucho softball team (28-22 overall, 11-7 in the Big West) took two out of three games against Pacific in UCSB’s final series of the season at Campus Diamond. The Gauchos came back from a grand slam to notch a 7-4 game one victory and their momentum carried on into the second contest, which they won 3-1. The Tigers (24-32 overall, 6-12 Big West) were able to put runners on in each of the seven innings on Sunday to avoid the sweep and win 8-7.
“I think right now, the team knows we’re capable of finishing strong,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “It’s like, ‘All right, we’ve dropped the last three conference series and now we have to come back and take the next two.’ After a grand slam, they could have made the choice to go under a rock, but they kept their cool and just went after it. That’s what we need to do every single game.”
The first game began with four scoreless innings in a duel between Gaucho sophomore MeLinda Matsumoto (8-10) and Pacific senior Alyce Jorgense (6-9). The Tigers were able to break the tie when freshman shortstop Nicole Matson hit the devastating grand slam in the fifth, but UCSB would rally back with a four-run sixth highlighted by a two-run double from freshman shortstop Jessica Beristianos. With the score knotted yet again in the seventh, junior centerfielder Tiffany Wright doubled and senior third baseman Tisha Duran walked with one away to bring up senior catcher Ericka Hansen, who blasted a three-run walk-off homerun to right center to give the Gauchos the victory.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced anything like that,” Hansen said. “And it’s honestly really exciting because I knew I only had three more games here at this field. When you play, you always want to give it everything you have no matter what, but it almost had a special ring to [Saturday]. It’s just icing on the cake for everything I’m so grateful I’ve been given here.”
In her complete game, Matsumoto allowed four runs on six hits with four walks. She struck out two on the day, including one where Matson, up in another bases-loaded situation in the seventh, swung at an off-speed pitch on the inside part of the plate.
“That at-bat, I just knew I had to get the job done,” Matsumoto said. “There was no other option. It was the same thing with a tie score and there was nothing else to do but get her out. My off-speed was really working and everything came together [Saturday].”
Santa Barbara’s offense continued into the second game as UCSB put up three runs in the first inning on consecutive RBI doubles by Duran and Hansen and a walk to sophomore right fielder Priscilla Perez with the bases loaded. Neither team scored again until the sixth inning, when Jorgensen hit a solo shot for Pacific’s only run of the contest. Junior hurler Tami Weston (10-6) pitched a gem, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts.
“It was great for [Weston] to keep her composure,” Galicinao said. “When you’re talking about confidence just for Tami, it’s the confidence to be able to finish her game and pitch a solid game from inning one through seven. It’s been a while since she’s done that, so I think that was a huge confidence builder for her.”
In Sunday’s series finale, the Tigers knocked Matsumoto out of the contest early after they scored four runs in the third on two singles, two stolen bases and a two-run homer. Weston relieved Matsumoto, but Pacific plated three runs off her and, although sophomore pitcher Lindsey Correa (10-7) came on to throw a scoreless two and two-thirds, the damage had been done. Santa Barbara nearly completed a comeback with a solo homerun by Wright in the fourth and a bases-clearing double by Beristianos that accounted for three of the four runs UCSB scored in the sixth, but the game would end in the Tigers’ favor after a foul out with runners on the corners in the seventh.
“That [double] was clutch,” Galicinao said. “[Beristianos] had been struggling this weekend and went in there, stuck with her plan, and she was able to hit it to a gap and get a big hit. Those are the kinds of timely hits I think we need all the time.”
The Sunday home crowd bid farewell to five seniors (Duran, Hansen, Nicole Churnock, Danielle Meyers and Dani Baltazar), who combined for two runs, one hit and four walks on Senior Day.
UCSB heads to Fullerton to take on the Titans for a three-game series to wrap up the season beginning with a doubleheader on Friday.