After a three-game sweep against UC Riverside last weekend, the UCSB softball team returns to Campus Diamond this weekend to face defending Big West champion and current league leader Pacific. With this weekend’s series marking the halfway point in the Big West season, the Gauchos look to make a push for the conference lead, sitting one game behind first place.

“Depending on what happens the rest of the way, this is about the closest you get to a championship playoff for us,” Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “We just need to play good softball and put some runs on the board.”

UCSB (21-25 overall, 6-3 in the Big West) returns home in a three-way tie for second place in conference alongside Long Beach State and UC Davis. The Tigers (28-14 overall, 7-2 Big West) are league leaders after two consecutive conference series sweeps against UCR and CSU Fullerton.

Pacific is conference leader in nearly every offensive statistical category, leading the league in home runs (30), batting average (.315), runs scored (227) and hits (348). Junior pitcher Nikki Armagost leads the Big West in batting average (.429) and doubles (16). Senior infielder Nicole Matson rounds out the Tiger offense; her 1.05 RBI per game and 12 home runs rank 26th nationally.

“I think we are much more prepared and focused in the detail of their team and their lineup,” senior catcher Lainey DePompa said. “Each pitcher is going to have to keep doing what they have been doing, which is working ahead and allowing our defense to play behind them.”

The Gauchos will try to contain the high powered offense of the Tigers with freshman pitcher Shelby Wisdom. Wisdom garnered Big West Pitcher of the Week honors for her five wins in five games last week, pitching 28 innings and posting a 1.00 ERA; she leads the league in wins (16), innings pitched (190.2) and batters struck out (183).

“[Wisdom’s] been doing a good job and helping the team as far as getting the popup when needed or even a strikeout,” Galicinao said. “She’s been steady and hitting her spots and doing what she can from the circle.”

Santa Barbara had its best performance offensively last weekend, scoring 20 combined runs versus UCR, including a season-high 11 runs in the opening game. Along with stellar pitching, Wisdom batted .333 with four RBIs and had four runs against the Highlanders. DePompa has been slugging the ball as of late, leading the team in home runs (5), RBIs (17) and slugging percentage (.400).

“For me it’s just been taking one pitch at a time,” DePompa said. “Lately I’ve been getting pitches I really like to hit.”

Last year the Gauchos were swept by Pacific at the Tiger’s ballpark, but will now have the advantage of playing at home where they are 11-5 overall.

“I think the only way that we’ll lose to them is by beating ourselves up,” sophomore infielder Kathryn Pilpil said. “We know we’re a good team this year and we know we’re capable of sweeping them.”

First pitch at Campus Diamond is scheduled for 12 p.m. on Saturday,.