After yet another great finish last weekend, the UCSB softball team sits at 12-8 overall, and has won nine of its last eleven games. The Gauchos will look to keep the momentum going as they prepare for this weekend’s Louisville Slugger Invitational at Long Beach State, where they are set to face four competitive teams.

UCSB will begin its stretch of game today, with a matchup against the Utah Valley Wolverines. The Gauchos should be the team to beat, considering they lead the Wolverines in almost every offensive category.

UCSB’s collective batting average continues to improve, thanks to players like junior infielder Emily Brucelas, who slugged three homers last weekend as she currently leads the team with a .500 batting average.

“I’m really excited to go into this weekend and progress to compete some more. I feel like after doing so well my confidence has boosted up a little,” Brucelas said.

The Wolverines are only hitting .276 as a team, and hold a .381 on base percentage. Santa Barbara will enter the game with a .346 batting average along with a .420 on base percentage. UCSB seems to have the advantage offensively, and it looks to be the same in its following game the next day against Iowa State.

Iowa State comes into the tournament with an 11-8 overall record, just one win away from UCSB’s win total. However, the two teams differ when it comes to their offensive performance.

The Cyclones only average.304 at the plate, while their junior outfielder Cathlin Bingham leads the team with a .400 average. In contrast, Gaucho junior outfielder Kristen Clark leads UCSB with a remarkable .486 average.

Despite the difference in batting, the pitching staffs for both teams are similar, as each boast strong freshman throwers.

Gaucho freshman pitcher Veronika Gulvin will attempt to follow up her first career no hitter last weekend against Charleston Southern. Compared to her time on the mound in high school, Gulvin notices a few changes in the way she currently pitches at the collegiate level.

“I have to think a lot more about my pitches now,” Gulvin said.

Although Gulvin carries a 4.13 ERA this year, she continues to prove herself reliable, as she has already collected 37 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched this season.

Iowa State, however, has two strong freshman pitchers of its own who will test the Gaucho lineup.

Cyclone freshman pitcher Emma Hylen enters the tournament with an outstanding 1.59 ERA in addition to 30 strikeouts. Cyclone freshman pitcher Savannah Sanders, with 46 strikeouts on the year, could also see the mound this weekend.

If things go well, the Gauchos should have two wins right off the bat. However, their recent streak could be halted when they face Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs are one of the toughest teams in the tournament, and enter with an incredible 16-3 record. This is largely due to its exceptional pitching staff. Mississippi will be a big test for the strong Gaucho lineup, as its two best pitchers each come into the tournament with ERA’s below 1.00.

Bulldog pitcher Regan Green currently owns a 0.81 ERA with 53 strikeouts. As if her statistics aren’t impressive enough, she is only a freshman. She is sure to be a threat to any team the Bulldogs go up against, and the Gaucho hitters will have to put all of their focus on getting to her.

The pressure should lighten a little bit for UCSB as it closes out the tournament with a game against Princeton, who only holds a 3-6 record. The Tigers’ early slump has resulted in meager numbers such as their .249 batting average along with having scored only 32 runs this season.

Still, Princeton has only played nine games this season, the least amount than any team at the tournament, so the Tigers are still working on putting their pitching and offense together.

UCSB’s first game in the Louisville Slugger Invitational is scheduled for today against Utah Valley at 4:30 p.m. On Friday, the Gauchos face Iowa State at 9:00 a.m. and Mississippi State at 11:30 a.m. Saturday they will close out the tournament with a game at 10:00 a.m. against Princeton.