Maci Fines slap-hits in an attempt to get on base. Dustin Harris/Daily Nexus

“Don’t tell me ‘you’ll get it next time’, tell me to get it next time,” Maci told me when asked what kind of feedback she responds to best. The self-motivated, driven nature of UCSB’s rookie Maci Fines colors practically everything she sets her mind to both on and off the field.

It is these instinctual qualities that lent themselves to Maci accomplishing the biggest hitting turnaround Gaucho softball saw this 2018 season from pre-conference games into Big West play, boosting her batting average from just .229 to a current .397 in-conference.

Fines came into UCSB with a momentous wave of accolades following closely behind her—Sacramento All-City Team Honors, Delta League First Team, you name it. By her senior year, the Elk Grove native tallied a whopping 201 hits in her four-year career, both breaking her high school’s record and becoming just one of 15 girls in California to ever reach 200 hits.

Things changed drastically, however, once she swapped her well-worn Sheldon High School jersey for the collegiate blue and gold Santa Barbara letters.

Maci made her collegiate debut as the shortstop back in February against Santa Clara where she went 2 for 3 on the day, an event that had Fines “anxious to see how the rest of the season would play out.”

Posted at the top of the offensive lineup, the lefty saw perhaps the most opportunities at the plate for offensive success; however, with this inevitably comes the potential for expected failure.

For the next games—all 30 of them—up until the onset of the Big West conference, Fines replicated that initial success only twice more. The rest of her attempts equated to just 20 hits in her 87 at-bats. Though not a terrible ratio by any means, Fines’ lack of consistency was certainly not what she was used to per her glorified high school reign.

No longer in the comfort of her hometown, Fines quickly realized it was time to take her game into her own hands. The accessibility of one-on-one coaching from father Edwin Fines, for example, was not an valid method of practice anymore.

“When I was home I would work out everyday with my dad offensively and defensively,” Fines said.

She continued that, after arriving to college, “I had to figure out how to motivate myself and go out there on my own.”

The infielder admitted that the switch began to flip after the first game of Big West in which the Gauchos faced UC Davis. By then, Maci’s place in the lineup dropped from first to last as she went 0 for 3 on the day.

After the series, Fines recalls Coach Galicinao calling her into her office for a meeting.

“Coach put confidence in me, [reassuring] me that she was believing in me. I like when coaches are honest with me. She pushes us really hard”

From there Maci did some soul-searching. With acute focus on perfecting her technical skills and a clear motivation to be the best player she knew she could be, Fines completely turned her season on its side.

“It was tough when I was struggling for a little bit, but I never got too worried. I knew what I was capable of and the work I’ve put in. I just had to get back to the basics, and it would come around.”

Instantly, then, the record-breaking, hit-hungry Maci Fines that entered Santa Barbara’s program resurged from the shadows as an offensive powerhouse with an undeniable influence on the team as a whole.

Statistically, the lefty showed immense improvement in her physical game. She racked at least four hits in five out of six of the series of Big West, going on at most a five-game hit streak.

Over half of Fines’ 43 hits on the season—23 to be exact—can be attributed to a Big West series. She currently boasts the highest in-conference batting average in the Gaucho lineup, coming in at a hot .397.

As Fines mentioned before, she possessed all the attributes needed to achieve this elite level of play, it was just a matter of honing in and utilizing them all at once. She was determined to prove that every hour of daily training coming into and while in college was worthwhile.

The rookie’s drive to improve dates back to when she was young, competing constantly with her older sister Jordan, the original softball stud of the family—by date, of course. As they grew older, Fines reflected that, between them, softball was always a competition.

“She [Jordan] committed [to Cal Berkeley] a year before me, and all the attention was on her, and I was like no; I wanted to do something too.”

The freshman’s internal fire for betterment inevitably reveals itself in the attitude she puts forth towards her team as well.

Fellow infielder and close friend Sierra Altmeyer, called “CC” by Maci, observed, “She takes every opportunity she can to improve her athletic ability. She is competitive and always making people around her better by inspiring them to be the best they can be.”

Though her individual success could not alone carry the team to the wins they needed, the qualities as aforementioned have made an already-noticeable impact on her teammates.  

Altmeyer summed up Fines’ contributions to the team, saying:

“Her ability to compete and her energy is contagious and spreads to the team. Her being a freshman and being able to show up and play every game to her full potential has been an aspect we needed on our team to keep us all humble and compete every pitch,” Altmeyer said.  

She followed up with, “To now be our starting short stop, she has earned the teams’ respect and has proven to us she has what it takes to be a leader.”

And a leader she will be; Fines humbly recognizes the improvements she has already made since being at UCSB, commenting, “Mentally I’ve definitely learned how to keep my composure and stay poised. Not playing on too much emotion helped me stay consistent throughout each game, letting things go.”

Fines added that she hopes in seasons to come she becomes a better leader on the team, as well as continue to improve her work ethic and personal game.  

The Gauchos face Cal Poly this weekend for their final series of the Big West conference, and while this may be a reprieve to the team’s suffering season, the games will preview what are just the early stages of the very dedicated Maci Fines’ legacy on the UCSB softball team.

A version of this story appeared on p. 6 of the May 10th, 2018, edition of the Daily Nexus.