While the Jesusita Fire burned hills and homes over Santa Barbara this weekend, one of the lesser known casualties of the blaze might very well have been UCSB softball’s final regular-season series. The Gauchos (26-25 overall, 9-12 in the Big West) intended to host the three game set with Cal State Fullerton within the friendly confines of Campus Diamond last weekend, but instead found themselves unexpectedly whisked away to the unforgiving campus of Cal Poly due to poor air quality back home.
In an unfortunate repeat of their last performance in SLO, UCSB again was swept in three, this time by the Titans (29-19, 17-4 Big West). After a promising start to the conference schedule, the weekend’s losses put Santa Barbara in a tie for fourth place in the Big West, with an outside shot at earning a place in the postseason.
“I think there were a lot [of] external things going on,” said sophomore infielder Jessica Beristianos, “but we came into this thing knowing no matter what, we could not let that affect our play. We had to play our game… we had to get it done whether we were at Campus Diamond or Cal Poly.”
Freshman hurler Krista Cobb, who had already tied the program single season record for wins the weekend before, took the mound Friday on the cusp of history, but Fullerton had other plans. It looked like another routine start for Cobb, allowing only two hits from the Titans over the first four innings. The Gaucho offense even produced a run as well, with junior infielder Jessica Ziegler able to reach home before Beristianos was tagged out in a run-down.
However, things changed in the top of the fifth for Fullerton. With two quick outs, Cobb walked senior outfielder Whitney Kroh who then promptly stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. That set the stage for sophomore outfielder Torrie Anderson, who came into the weekend with nine homers, to slam her tenth, giving Fullerton the 2-1 lead. Cobb would look shaky again in the sixth, giving up a run on two consecutive doubles before an out was registered.
Fellow freshman Jenny Liepman took the mound to finish the game, but the damage had been done. UCSB was able to scratch across another run in the seventh on an error by the shortstop, but it would not be enough to prevent the 4-2 loss.
“It’s always a fun series with Fullerton,” said Beristianos. “We always have good games with them. We kept fighting every single inning… they produced a couple runs early and we got a little tentative a couple times. We were hitting hard shots, but they were right at people. We just weren’t catching our breaks, and they were.”
Game two saw junior Lindsey Correa almost go the distance again in her second consecutive start, but after a marathon nine-inning affair, it was CSUF who came out on top in a 2-1 nail biter. Correa surrendered one run early in the first, a sac-fly that brought Anderson home from third, but then proceeded to shut down Fullerton until the end, posting seven straight shutout innings.
UCSB earned the tying run in the fifth when junior outfielder Priscilla Perez was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. From that point, the game went scoreless until the top of the ninth, when a pair of Gaucho errors allowed one Titan run to plate. UCSB had their chance in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t convert a bases-loaded, one-out scenario into a single run.
Fullerton, who finished second in the Big West, looked to leave no doubt on Saturday, reeling four runs off of senior Tami Weston before a furious Santa Barbara comeback fell short in a 6-5 loss. UCSB produced all five of their runs in the final two innings, with Beristianos going 3-3 as the Gaucho top performer.
“I feel like that whole entire game we had runners on multiple times, but like the games before we weren’t getting the hits,” said Beristianos. “We just kept fighting and fighting, but ultimately we just ran out of innings. Even before the seventh inning we had bases loaded, but they got us out of it. Anything could have changed it, one hit could have changed it.”
Saturday’s loss marked the last regular season game for seniors Christine Ramos, Tiffany Wright, Jackie Conlin and Weston, a quartet that helped UCSB softball begin to compete again for the conference crown.
“They’re just a great class,” said Beristianos. “They put so much into this program, so much into this year. They’re going to be greatly missed. They’ve put everything they had into our team. We wanted to play for them, but unfortunately just couldn’t get this last win.”