Coming off two wins against the Matadors last Saturday, the UCSB softball team looks to break out the brooms for today’s series finale against conference-rival Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos (21-17 overall, 4-4 in Big West) needed late-inning heroics to squeak out a narrow 7-6 win in game one before shutting down the Northridge (23-14, 3-5) offense in a 6-0 game two blowout.

“The key [for game three] is to score often and early,” junior hurler MeLinda Matsumoto said. “Our goal is to score every inning and beat them in every inning. If we beat them every inning, we win the game. On defense, we have to make the routine plays and try to make a great play every inning.”

Santa Barbara hasn’t had too much trouble scoring this season, ranking first in the Big West in batting average at .298, a number that’s 32nd nationally. As a team, UCSB leads the Big West in runs, hits and RBI while out-hitting their opponents .369 to .204 at Campus Diamond. Senior infielder Christine Ramos leads the Gaucho attack with a league-best .404 average and 17 RBI on 15 hits. The Long Beach native has also been a force on the base paths, successfully stealing 13 bases in 14 attempts, which again is a team high.

Batting behind Ramos in the two-hole is junior infielder Jessica Ziegler, who ranks second on the team in both batting average (.345) and hits (48). However, at times this season, the elder Zeigler’s consistency has been overshadowed her younger sister’s clutch hitting. Freshman utility Amanda Zeigler is hitting .294 with 23 RBI, a number that ranks third on the team. After a slow start to 2009, senior outfielder Tiffany Wright has picked up the pace behind the plate, posting a team-high 29 RBI on the year with a modest .279 average.

With the best hitting in the Big West, it seems odd to characterize Santa Barbara’s strength as their pitching, but the statistics don’t lie. Freshman right-hander Krista Cobb, whose two wins in the doubleheader earned her a fourth Big West Pitcher of the Week award (a program first), owns a team-best 1.83 ERA and 10 complete games in 15 starts. In just under 100 innings pitched, Cobb has surrendered only 71 hits while striking-out a team-high 77 batters. The opposition has had trouble even connecting with the freshman’s pitches, and is hitting .198 against her. As a result, the wins have been piling up, with Cobb just three wins away from breaking Jennifer Davis’ freshman record of 16. As a staff, UCSB has held opponents to .260 hitting in 38 games.

After concluding their bout with Northridge today, the Gauchos will head south for a three-game showdown with Cal State Long Beach. Currently, the 49ers (24-17, 5-4) are just a half-game ahead of the Gauchos in the Big West and have possession of third place.