After splitting a doubleheader at Fresno State Monday night, the UCSB softball team returns this weekend to the friendly confines of Campus Diamond for a three-game series against conference-rival Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos (19-17 overall, 2-4 in Big West) are in need of a strong showing after being swept by Cal Poly last weekend.

UCSB goes into the weekend series just one game back in the Big West from #5 Matadors (23-12, 3-3) who, like UCSB, are looking to rebound after a disappointing series sweep. If the Gauchos are to succeed, they have to take advantage of a slumping CSUN lineup that’s had trouble getting runners on in recent bouts. As a team, the Matadors are hitting a measly .161 with a .266 on-base percentage. Leading the way for this seemingly feeble attack is junior outfielder Christina Saenz, whose .363 average over 35 games is a team high. In 91 at-bats, Saenz has recorded 20 RBI on 33 hits. Junior hurler Debbie Duran has taken the majority of the starts for Northridge this year, and is only one of two pitchers in the Big West that has an ERA under 2.00 with over 20 starts. Duran is 16-8 in 30 appearances, and hitters have been averaging .242 against her.

The mound once again looks to be Santa Barbara’s strength, with freshman Krista Cobb coming off a two-hitter in the night cap against Fresno State. With an ERA just over 2.00, Cobb is 12-5 in 88 and two-thirds innings pitched, with 70 strikeouts and nine complete games under her belt.

“[Cobb]’s going out there and she’s working hard every game,” said junior outfielder Priscilla Perez. “We always have confidence in her on the mound.”

Junior MeLinda Matsumoto should see some significant time on the hill as well, having pitched a marathon 10 and a third in an 11-inning loss to Cal Poly. With a misleading 2-7 record, Matsumoto owns the team’s second-lowest ERA at 2.93 in 18 appearances.

“[Matsumoto] is really settling in now,” Perez said. “She’s feeling comfortable on the mound, and she’s going out there wanting to hold them to as few runs as possible. She did an amazing job on Sunday, it was a heartbreaker that we couldn’t pull it out for her.”

At the plate, senior infielder Christine Ramos leads Santa Barbara with a .391 average and 15 RBI on 50 hits from the lead-off spot. Ramos currently ranks second in the Big West in terms of batting average and first in hits. Freshman utility Amanda Zeigler has also been impressive as of late, hitting .286 in Big West play. Zeigler has shown flashes of clutch hitting as well with 22 RBI on the year.

UCSB and CSUN begin their three-game series with a Saturday doubleheader starting at noon, followed by the rubber match on Sunday at 12 p.m. at Campus Diamond.