Melanie Menor catches the ball before the LBSU hitter gets a chance to get to second base. Nicole Wallace/Daily Nexus

Swept in their weekly doubleheader for the third time in conference play—this time by UC Riverside—the UCSB softball team continue to dig themselves into a deep hole as they now place last in Big West rankings.

Santa Barbara holds the worst record in conference coming in at 5-12, a win average that fails to even reach .300. Its seasonal record suffers accordingly at 18-32, and its the only team in Big West who has not seen at least 20 wins.

UC Riverside sits well above SB in the number three spot of Big West with an almost-winning record of 8-9. Their overall record towers over the Gauchos’ at 31-20.

Lots of cleats stomped on home plate this Saturday; the high-scoring games racked a total of 36 runs between the two teams. Santa Barbara was on the wrong end, unfortunately, losing 13-11 in the first game and 9-3 in the second.

This scoring mania, however, seems to be an unfortunate recurring pattern for UCSB. So far, in five of their twelve losses the Gauchos have allowed their competitor nine or more runs.

As well as being high-scoring, SB’s games lately also have been high in errors.

Taking into consideration the series against Cal State Northridge last week, SB has made 14 errors in the past five games, seven of them being solely from this Saturday’s double header.

In the most recent face-off of this weekend, the Gauchos trailed Riverside 4-0 by just the second inning.

Pitchers Veronika Gulvin and Lena Mayer, backed by their own Gaucho defense, were unable to keep Riverside baserunners off the field throughout the game, allowing their opponent to score in four of the six innings they batted.

UC Riverside’s Hannah Rodriguez pounced on each opportunity she got at the plate. Going 3 for 4 in the second game, the junior shortstop singled three times consequently producing three runs for her team.

Rodriguez’s predecessor in the lineup Jenna Curtan similarly maximized her own time on offense. The centerfielder’s bat threatened Gaucho defense twice in her four turns at the plate with a double and a triple.

UCR’s tenacity at the plate remained stable through both games, a quality that seems to consistently evade Santa Barbara. While UCSB practically matched UCR in hits, its inability to bring baserunners home brings a pivotal downfall to the team’s success.

The first game of the day, however, illuminated a rarely-seen side of this lackluster offense. The Gauchos drove in 11 runs, their highest scoring win since facing Fordham way back in February.

UCSB began and ended the game with home runs compliments of freshman and senior duo Maci Fines and Samantha Lujan.

Lujan, who DP’d for the day, homered deep into left field with bases loaded in the sixth, setting up a potentially great comeback story as her team trailed then by only one run. Not only did the hit break her five-game dry streak, but it was also her first home run of the season.

Fines matched Lujan’s 3 for 4 performance for the day in both the first and second games of the day.

The shortstop has had an unbelievable offensive debut in her first Big West series. She holds an incredible .400 batting average, far surpassing her teammates, and has 22 hits in just the 17 conference games so far.

By itself, the Gauchos offense should have been enough to secure a win for the team. So where, then, did they go wrong?

By the second inning, SB lost their 4-0 lead as the UCR offense pounced on the momentum put forth by their competitor and scored a returning seven runs. The teams remained arm in arm throughout the game: as one side scored, the other matched it.

Lasting almost three hours, the lagging game took one final toll on the team in the last inning. An error allowed the Highlanders one last run to which the Gauchos were not able to respond to in their at-bats.

Santa Barbara faces UC Riverside one more time on Sunday, May 6 at 1pm at Amy S. Harrison Field for a final shot at preventing a sweep on the weekend.