After coming all the way back from a 6-3 deficit to win the first game in the bottom of the seventh, the UCSB softball team utilized another complete-game shutout from freshman Krista Cobb to take the doubleheader against Cal State Northridge last Saturday at Campus Diamond. Cobb earned wins in both games, entering game one in a relief role.
“In the first game, we just needed to find a way to win,” junior hurler MeLinda Matsumoto said. “That was our whole motto for the day, just find a way to get it done.”
UCSB (21-17 overall, 4-4 in Big West) and Northridge (23-14, 3-5 Big West) both entered the series in need of conference wins after being swept by Cal Poly and Long Beach, respectively, the weekend before. In the opening game, UCSB, who drew first blood in the first inning when sophomore infielder Jessica Beristianos drilled a two-RBI double to center, scoring freshman Amanda Ziegler and senior Tiffany Wright from first and second. Santa Barbara extended their lead to 3-0 in the second when speedy senior Christine Ramos tripled into right center, scoring sophomore outfielder Katie McWhirter from first.
Unfortunately, the early lead did not last. Matsumoto, who had retired six of the seven batters she previously faced, loaded the bases after a walk and two singles to left, setting up junior outfielder Alexandria Alvarado to cash them in. Alvarado didn’t connect bat to ball, but did earn the Matador’s first RBI after Matsumoto misplaced her offering and hit her. In the next at-bat, junior outfielder Christina Saenz, who entered the contest with CSUN’s highest batting average, slammed a three-RBI double to right field, giving Northridge a narrow 4-3 lead. Matsumoto settled down and finished the inning without allowing another run, but was pulled after three and a third when the Matadors scored again in the forth, this time on a wild pitch. At this point Cobb stepped in to stop the bleeding, but even the freshman phenom couldn’t stop yet another CSUN run from crossing the plate.
Still down 6-3 going into the sixth, UCSB began to blaze the comeback trail when senior outfielder Jackie Conlin started things off with a leadoff double to left center. Ramos then scored her with a double of her own, then advanced to third after junior Jessica Ziegler singled to left. After Ziegler stole second, Wright was able to bring them both home with a game-tying single to center field. With one on and no outs, junior hurler Debbie Duran was forced to call it a day, paving the way for fellow junior Amanda Pitzenberger to retire the next three Gaucho batters. With the game tied 6-6 in the bottom of the seventh, Pitzenberger found herself in a bases-loaded jam after hitting McWhirter and Conlin, as well as walking Ramos. After a thrilling play at the plate during the previous at-bat in which freshman outfielder Brooke Putich, who was pinch-running for McWhirter, was thrown out, the game ended rather anticlimactically on a wild pitch from Pitzenberger, sending Conlin home for the winning run.
Cobb’s stellar performance and the first match’s stinging heartbreak spelled disaster for CSUN, as the Matadors only managed three hits off the freshman in 6-0 second-game drubbing. Cobb, who had only allowed three hits in game one, allowed only three more in her second outing, with no walks and two strikeouts.
“[Cobb] was great,” Matsumoto said. “She had great outings both games. She came in and closed [Game One] after I didn’t do so well, but it’s just great going me to her because we’re such different pitchers… going from a drop ball pitcher to an up ball pitcher is a big difference. They weren’t able to make that adjustment, and she was amazing.”