After taking two of three over homesteading Pacific last weekend, the UCSB softball team returns home for a pair of Big West series to close out the regular season, beginning with a three-game stint against UC Davis. The Gauchos (23-22 overall, 6-9 in Big West) have an 8-2 home record going into the weekend, defeating opponents by 4.1 runs on average within the friendly confines of Campus Diamond.

“We pretty much take it one game at a time, one day at a time,” said junior pitcher MeLinda Matsumoto. “We concentrate as much as we can on that.”

While UCSB finds itself tied for fifth in the Big West thus far, it might be the Aggies (21-26, 5-10) who need the wins the most. Davis boasts a disappointing 6-9 road record, and currently sits one game back of Santa Barbara in conference play. The Aggies have been getting their wins for the most part as a result of dominating pitching with the league’s second best team ERA at 1.83. Davis also ranks first in strikeouts (269) and third in opponent batting average (.234). Senior hurler Jessica Hancock is 13-10 on the year, and leads her team with an ERA of 1.78. Hancock, who has 13 complete games to her credit, has often times been simply unhittable, leading the Big West in strikeouts with 161.

However, Davis has needed every bit of the pitching staff’s success to make up for a lackluster offense that ranks next to last in on-base percentage and runs scored. Freshman infielder Kelly Harman has been the most effective member of a largely ineffective lineup, posting a team-high .304 average with 23 RBI. Harman is one of only two Aggies hitting over .300 that has appeared in 30 games or more.

Having faced offenses this year with far more potency than the Aggies’, the Santa Barbara staff should have more than enough firepower to control the series. Freshman flamethrower Krista Cobb enters the weekend with a record of 16-8, one win short of becoming the program’s all-time winningest freshman pitcher. Cobb leads the Gauchos with a 1.88 ERA and 14 complete games so far, with batters hitting .204 against her. Look for Matsumoto to get a start as well, for the junior has started 11 games this season.

Offensively, Santa Barbara brings one of the conference’s most productive offenses to Campus Diamond. As a team, UCSB has hit .282 on the year with 346 hits and 160 RBI, numbers good enough to rank in the top three in conference for each category. Senior infielder Christine Ramos paces the Gauchos from the leadoff spot, batting a conference-leading .394 with 18 RBI on 63 hits.

UCSB and UC Davis begin their weekend encounter with a doubleheader Saturday starting at noon at Campus Diamond. In celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week, the UCSB Inter-Collegiate Athletics is offering free admission to local educators for the series’ entirety, an offer which can be redeemed at the ICA Ticket Office on campus. As always, admission for students is free.