Heading into their final conference series this weekend against four-spot rival Cal Poly, the UCSB softball team seeks one last shot at a win to once and for all put an end to the grim 2018 season.
Last weekend’s wipeout against UC Riverside will undoubtedly test the Gauchos’ ability to play whole-heartedly this weekend considering UCR shut them out in just five innings in their latest matchup.
Santa Barbara, now on a five-game losing streak, walks into their upcoming games with a lowly 5-13 conference record which translates to just 18-33 overall.
Cal Poly, on the other hand, poses a big threat to the Gauchos. The Mustangs are riding a momentous wave of pride after defeating No. 17 Cal State Fullerton, the leaders in the Big West conference, 3-0 last Sunday.
They currently rank fourth in conference, winning eight out of the 18 total games so far. Though they lost their latest series, their performance this weekend put the team at a 24-23 overall record, pushing their game percentage over the .500 mark.
Nonetheless, the Gauchos have no reason not to leave everything out on the field on Friday and Saturday.
With combined efforts from stand-out Big West players like Maci Fines, Sammy Fabian and Emily Schuttish, Santa Barbara has the potential to finally turn the tide for themselves. The three freshmen threaten opponents from all directions.
Fines’s and Fabian’s combined success at the plate totals 43 hits so far; that translates to just below a third of the hits produced by the nine-person lineup in conference.
On the mound, Schuttish has proven to have matured immensely since Big West play came around, even when the games ended up being devastating losses.
Her latest appearance happened against former competitor UC Riverside, whose 13 runs admittedly threw a wrench into her mojo last Saturday.
In the games she has thrown all seven innings, however, the pitcher has held opponents to five runs or less. She holds onto the lowest in-conference ERA in the SB bullpen at 4.42.
At this point, though, it would be unfair to leave out Cal Poly’s contributions to this equation.
Santa Barbara’s “low” 4.42 ERA exceeds that of three out of four of the SLO’s pitchers.
Senior powerhouse Lindsey Chalmers will undoubtedly bring the heat should she face SB this weekend. The right-handed vet boasts a 19-9 pitching record while keeping her ERA down low at 2.24 overall and at an even lower 1.39 in conference.
Her consistent success earned her back-to-back Big West Conference Pitcher of the Week awards, the first a result of Chalmers’s first no-hitter. She beat out Santa Barbara’s Felisha Noriega that week.
Whether or not Cal Poly throws Chalmers or not, Santa Barbara’s offense must be alive and ready to play.
Though Santa Barbara typically produces the baserunners they need, their efforts at the plate lately have not extended to producing the runs needed to win. However, their failure to close out games is also due to the lack of consistency in the field.
Since the onset of the season in February, there have been just nine games in which the Gauchos have gone error-free.
In the past two series alone, UCSB committed 14 defensive mistakes, and while this is by no means entirely to blame for their recent losses, it does take a big toll on the team’s success rate.
Tightening up the defensive game can especially play a crucial role against a team like Cal Poly.
Though its offense is consistent enough to turn out wins, its game records reveal a very low-scoring pattern. In only one of the Mustangs’ eight wins in Big West so far have they scored more than five runs against an opponent.
Comparatively, though they have won only five games, SB scored above five runs in three of those five wins.
Santa Barbara has the drive, the capability, the potential for success; it has peaked on the field and at the plate all season. And though the end of the season crept quickly behind the shadows of loss after loss, Friday and Saturday grant the Gauchos a final attempt at proving themselves as fierce competitors.
UCSB takes their closing series back home to Santa Barbara at Campus Diamond beginning Friday at 3 p.m. followed by a double header on Saturday starting at 1 p.m.