There goes the undefeated season.
After four straight wins on opening weekend that had them on cloud nine, the UCSB softball team was dragged back to earth last weekend by a Murderer’s Row of ranked opponents at the Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego. The Gauchos (5-4 overall) suffered narrow defeats to the likes of #8 Stanford, #10 Washington, #24 San Diego State and Utah State, while prevailing against Long Beach State, the defending Big West champions.
“It wasn’t the weekend we were hoping to have,” junior outfielder Pricilla Perez said, “But I think we learned a lot about what we need to work on. This week we’re going to be working on those things to get better and get ready for another big weekend because we’re playing a lot of nonconference teams this weekend and getting those wins will really help our RPI.”
UCSB began the weekend with a Thursday matchup with Stanford (8-1), a team whose star pitcher lived up to her billing. Senior hurler Missy Penna threw her sixth complete game of the season against the Gauchos, giving up only three hits and two walks while striking out 13. While Penna was impressive, Santa Barbara had her in a fourth-inning jam after being held hitless during the three previous innings. After a fielding error followed by two quick outs, freshman shortstop Keilani Jennings ripped a single through the left infield, advancing junior infielder Jessica Ziegler to second. After Penna walked freshman utility Amanda Ziegler, junior outfielder Pricilla Perez was at bat with the bases loaded and a chance to break open the scoreless game. With the pressure on, it was Penna who emerged victorious, forcing Perez to ground out to second base with no harm done. After that showdown, the Gauchos seemed to lose their nerve, surrendering four runs over the next two innings while Penna continued her methodical performance. Junior MeLinda Matsumoto gave up four runs and nine hits before freshman right-hander Krista Cobb stepped in to close out the 4-0 loss.
Against nationally-ranked Washington (9-0), the Gauchos could not translate another solid start by Cobb into a win. Coming off the program’s first ever perfect game, Cobb surrendered only three runs and five hits in her second complete game of the season. The freshman’s only mistakes came in the second inning, when senior infielder Ashlyn Watson sent the games only homer to left field. After giving up a walk, Cobb surrendered a RBI-double to opposing pitcher Danielle Lawrie, who advanced to third on the throw. The score stood at 3-0 Washington after a Husky sacrifice, and it would stay that way for the duration. Santa Barbara was held to just two hits, both by the elder Ziegler.
Hours later, UCSB found themselves in a 6-0 hole against Utah State (3-7), one of only two unranked teams Santa Barbara was scheduled to face. In her second start, senior Tami Weston allowed six runs in three innings pitched, and was pulled in the fourth after four of those runs scored before the Gauchos recorded an out. Matsumoto entered in relief and held the Aggies scoreless over the next four innings, but despite a valiant comeback attempt, the damage was done. UCSB entered the seventh inning down 6-5, and three walks later Perez found herself with another bases-loaded opportunity. Unfortunately, the junior was bested again with a fly-ball to right, and the game ended in a 6-5 Aggie win. To her credit, Perez had been instrumental in sparking the Gaucho comeback, batting .500 with an RBI in the fourth.
The lone win of the weekend for Santa Barbara came against Long Beach State (4-5) on the Classic’s third day. With both teams deadlocked at 3-3 for most of the game, UCSB came up with a five-run eighth inning to cement the 8-3 win over the 49ers, a win capped off by sophomore infielder Jessica Beristianos’ two-run bomb over the left field fence. Freshman pitching got it done again for the Gauchos, with newcomer Jenny Liepman holding Long Beach hitless over the final five and two-thirds in a relief role. Their victory would be short lived however, as the Gauchos fell 5-1 to the homesteading Aztecs on the same day. Nationally-ranked San Diego State (4-5) relied on a four-run fifth inning to turn what was a 1-0 Gaucho advantage into a 4-1 lead, a lead they would hold until game’s end.