The UCSB softball team earned its first Big West series win in five tries this weekend at Campus Diamond, sweeping a Long Beach State team in rebuilding mode that not only marked the Gauchos’ (13-33 overall, 4-11 in Big West) first series victory at all this year, but their longest winning streak at three games. Sophomore pitcher Krista Cobb never left the mound during the series, pitching three consecutive complete games for Santa Barbara, including a marathon 10-inning 1-0 decision in Sunday’s rubber match.

“[Cobb] really went out there fighting,” junior infielder Jessica Beristianos said. “She definitely was very efficient starting batters ahead with first-pitch strikes. She just went after them for all 24 innings.”

[media-credit id=20037 align=”alignleft” width=”166″]Allison Taylor[/media-credit]

Sophomore outfielder Allison Taylor takes a swing during a 5-2 win on Saturday that got the series off on the right foot.

Saturday’s first contest pitted Cobb against senior Bridgette Pagano, a Temecula native who had only started three games this season and perhaps symbolized how seriously the 49ers (21-25, 5-10) were taking UCSB’s struggling offense. LBSU jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead after its first two turns at bat, but the Gauchos were able to equalize in the bottom of the second after sophomore outfielder Amanda Ziegler launched a two-run bomb to left with one out. It was the younger of the Ziegler sisters’ first home run and RBI of the year after she posted four homers and 28 RBI during her freshman campaign.

“[The Ziegler home run] was awesome,” Beristianos said. “It’s always great to see an underclassman come through in situations like that. I was very happy for her.”
Both sides went scoreless through the third, fourth and half of the fifth until UCSB broke the game wide open in the fifth’s later half. With two on and two out, freshman infielder Keilani

Jennings lifted a three-run shot to right — her fourth of the year — to put Santa Barbara up 5-2. No runs would be scored for the game’s remainder, leaving the Gauchos with a win which was not only their second win in 18 games, but the first time they had put up five runs or more since March 26. Cobb was credited with the win after giving up only two runs on seven hits while fanning five.

“We just did the little things,” Beristianos said. “We got runners on base, moved runners and got bunts down. We put the ball in play and made the defense play.”

The second game featured a pitcher’s duel between Cobb and fellow sophomore ace Taylor Petty, with no runs being scored outside of the third inning. In that deciding frame, it was Cobb who blinked first, hitting the first batter she faced which eventually led to that runner scoring on a single by senior outfielder Ashley Weber. Cobb allowed no more Long Beach runs for the game after that. UCSB answered its next turn at bat with two consecutive RBI singles from senior infielder Jessica Ziegler and sophomore outfielder Brooke Putich, putting UCSB up 2-1. Petty left the game in the fourth in favor of junior Brooke Turner, who proceeded to leave the Gauchos hitless for the rest of the game. Cobb was equal to the task, and earned her fifth win of the year after giving up only one run on seven hits.

Despite having its first conference series victory of the year assured, UCSB again placed Cobb on the mound to face Turner after the Gaucho sophomore had already pitched 14 innings the day before. In a pitcher’s duel worthy of remembrance, Cobb and Turner continued to trade scoreless innings until the end of regulation and still the scoreboard read 0-0. Having now pitched 21 consecutive innings, conventional wisdom would dictate pulling Cobb in favor of either senior MeLinda Matsumoto or Lindsey Correa, but the team stood by their ace and in return, their ace did not disappoint.

“We definitely wanted to keep her in,” Beristianos said. “She was keeping [Long Beach] off-guard, doing so well out there we just wanted to stay until she ran out of gas.”

Cobb pitched two more scoreless innings until finally in the bottom of the tenth, the Santa Barbara offense broke though Turner. Sophomore outfielder Jamie Adishian began the inning with a single, then advanced to second on a sacrifice by Jessica Ziegler. Putich grounded one straight to the pitcher in the next at bat, but reached first safely as Turner tried unsuccessfully to throw out Adishian running to third. With runners on the corners and one out, all UCSB needed was a deep sacrifice to win, and Beristianos obliged them. Beristianos sent one high to center field for the sacrifice RBI, which scored Adishian from third and completed the Gauchos’ first sweep of Long Beach since 2001. For her part, Cobb earned her third win in a row, equaling the number of wins this weekend that she had in her previous 15 starts, while holding LBSU scoreless on six hits Sunday.

“We had fought and fought and fought, and we just hadn’t gotten our breaks, so we were ready to battle and keep on fighting,” Beristianos said. “To get the results that we did [this weekend] was awesome.”

UCSB completes its 2010 home schedule next weekend when it hosts a three-game set with Pacific, with games on Saturday and Sunday at noon, 2 p.m. and noon respectively. As always, admission for students is free.