The Gauchos finished their regular season this weekend in historic fashion.
UCSB (30-24 overall, 13-8 in the Big West) achieved back-to-back 30-win seasons for only the second time in program history after taking two of three games from Cal State Fullerton at Anderson Family Field. Santa Barbara split Friday’s doubleheader against the Titans (27-26-1 overall, 11-10 Big West) with an 8-5 victory and a 10-6 loss before taking the final contest 11-7 on Saturday. Junior centerfielder Tiffany Wright, last week’s Big West Player of the Week, went nine-for-13 with two home runs, eight RBI and four runs scored. With her grand slam on Saturday, Wright moved into a first-place tie with Tonya Dias for 23 career home runs, the most in the Gaucho history[[ok]].
“Considering that’s the first [grand slam] of my college career, [it was] amazing,” Wright said. “It came at the right time, and it felt really good to help out my team like that. I’m just completely confident with myself now. Before, I used to question and guess a lot, but now I’m beyond that. I’m tired of doing that. I’m just me and I go up there and hit. I go full-out, and it’s been working so I’m going to stick to that.”
Making her first start in three weeks, sophomore Lindsey Correa (11-7) began game one with a two-run lead after junior second baseman Christine Ramos bunted herself on in the first inning, stole second and came home on an error after Wright singled. UCSB then executed a double steal as Wright took home and senior catcher Ericka Hansen made it to second base. Santa Barbara got two more in the second inning, including an RBI single by Ramos, but the Titans responded with a pair of RBI groundouts in the bottom half. With a one-run advantage in the sixth, Ramos drove in two more on a triple to centerfield, and the Gauchos rallied home two additional runs in the inning. Fullerton loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, though only two of those runs scored and the Titans came no closer with sophomore MeLinda Matsumoto (8-11) notching her first save of the season. Correa finished with the win after allowing five runs on five hits over five innings.
In the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader, two late-inning rallies by the Titans evened the series. UCSB put up four runs in the first highlighted by a two-run homer from Wright and an inning later the Gauchos increased their lead after Wright hit an RBI double, but Fullerton got three right back all on a homerun by senior shortstop Crystal Vieyra[[ok]] in the second. Two Santa Barbara errors and a wild pitch sparked a three-run Titan fifth followed by four more runs in the sixth on back-to-back homers by the heart of Fullerton’s order to put the home team ahead for good. Matsumoto pitched the entire game and took the loss after allowing ten runs (seven earned) on nine hits.
The rubber match on Saturday saw the Gauchos get on base in six of the seven innings. UCSB scored one in the third on an RBI single by senior third baseman Tisha Duran, but the big six-run Santa Barbara rally came in the fourth when four consecutive singles set the stage for a dramatic grand slam by Wright. After another RBI double by Wright in the fifth amid a two-run rally, the Titans scored seven of their own on a double and a pair of home runs in their half. Then in the sixth, senior left fielder Nicole Churnock blasted the first homer of her career over the left field fence to knock in two and score her third run of the game.
“I didn’t really know I was going to hit a home run, so I was just sprinting around the bases, and when I saw my team at home plate, I knew I hit it out,” Churnock said. “We just had to keep it going because we knew they had some good hitters on their team and they were going to hit the ball, so we had to hit it just as hard and farther.”
On the mound, junior hurler Tami Weston (11-6) pitched four scoreless innings before allowing seven runs in the fifth, but Correa came in relief to finish the contest and gave up just one hit out of the ten batters she faced.
“A lot was on the line it being ‘Senior Day,’ but we came up huge,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “Tiffany had that grand slam and that’s the first time all year that she’s come through with bases loaded[[comma]] so for her to go big like that was exciting. Nicole’s first-time homerun, Tami getting a start, Lindsey coming in and closing after she struggled for a couple weeks; it was just an all-around team effort. It’s kind of just been the story of our season; I think if people pay to see us play, they get their money’s worth for sure.”
Saturday’s victory also marked the final game in a Gaucho uniform for Duran, who built on her incredible season and finishes with the single season RBI (55) and home run records (13), as well as the fifth-best batting average (.360) for a season. Ramos also moved up in the record books to fourth on the career hits list with 183 and fourth in career runs with 85. In addition to the personal records, UCSB managed to take its first season series from the Titans since 2004.
“I think all three games were exciting,” Galicinao said. “Fullerton has a long tradition of being a great program. Regardless of what their record was this year, they’ve been hot the last 10 games, so I’m proud of our team for what [we] did. The seniors went out on a high for themselves and this team has a lot to look forward to next year. For this team, after being predicted to finish seventh, it’s been a really special year and we should never take away from what they’ve accomplished.”