After being swept by #5 Arizona State in three mercy-rule matches last week, UCSB softball hopes to rebound on the road against defending #13 UCLA in a doubleheader today.
The Gauchos head into the series with a 12-14 record, having lost five in a row and seven out of their last eight. The losses in the Arizona series put them below .500 for the first time this season. Meanwhile, the Bruins look to improve upon their 21-5 record.
“This is the more difficult portion of our season, but I think it’s going to be really helpful going into our conference,” junior catcher Lainey DePompa said. “[The losses have] really helped us realize the small things [we] need to improve so that we can hold onto leads, make adjustments and keep the other team from scoring.”
After losing four of five games at home in the Gaucho Classic II, UCSB was scheduled to play against both UCLA and Fresno State over Spring Break. However, rain caused all four games to be canceled or postponed.
Although the Gauchos kept the Sun Devils in check for a majority of the series three weeks ago, their pitching crumbled during one inning in each of the three games, allowing five runs or more.
“We just realized the little things that we need to focus more on in games like [those],” DePompa said. “[We need to] adjust quickly to the pitchers we’re facing, stay aware on defense and expect different situations to occur so we’re not surprised.”
In the final game’s 9-1 loss, the lone run came off a home run from freshman Kendall Gill. The previous game was the closest of the three, with UCSB taking a 3-1 lead into the fifth inning before giving up 10 runs. Sophomore shortstop Keilani Jennings led the team offensively with two runs.
“Kendall had a home run which kept us alive and fighting,” DePompa said. “Everyone on defense and offense was helping keep energy up so that we could continue to fight and score runs.”
The first game of the weekend ended in an 8-0 shutout for the Sun Devils. Eight out of the 12 players scored for Arizona and freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo totaled nine strikeouts.
“I have to give it to ASU,” junior utility Ziegler said. “They’re an amazing team and great hitters, but at the end of the day, we learned from it and it motivates us going into conference. Nobody likes to lose but I think the only way to learn is from failure.”
UCSB will need to be ready for UCLA’s strong offense, which hits .336 and averages almost seven runs per game.
“They’re pretty big swingers, aggressive on the bases and have a solid defense,” DePompa said. “We’ll need to be ready for everything.”
In order to combat the Bruins’ offense, the Gauchos will rely on their pitchers, who lead the Big West in strikeouts with 156. Offensively, the Gauchos will look to get on the board first, as they are 10-2 when scoring first.
“It’s pretty important because when we score first, we set the tempo for the game,” Ziegler said. “We’re just going to play softball and not get caught up in the hype of UCLA because we’re not afraid of anyone.”
Freshman outfielder McKenzie Kane leads UCSB in runs. She also is third in the Big West in total hits and at bats with 33 and 92, respectively.
The games begin today at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. at UCLA’s Easton Stadium.