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

UCSB will look to get back on track after being swept in their conference opener against Cal State Fullerton. The Gauchos are currently on an extended losing streak of 12 games, while on the other side the Aggies had won eight in a row before losing to Cal State Northridge on Sunday.

The season has been a struggle so far for UCSB after beginning the year on a high note. They won three of their first four games, but the season has gone downhill since then. Their 0-3 conference record, along with their 6-28 overall record, puts them last in the Big West at this point in time.

Even though the season has been a struggle so far for the Gauchos, things seem to be looking up for them. They performed impressively against a very good Cal State Fullerton team — the score was tight in every game of the last series, even forcing extra innings in the second of their three game set. There is still a lot of time left in this season and much room for the Gauchos to improve.

This year, UCSB has been led by sophomore outfielder Sammy Fabian, whose .444 batting average places her at second in the entire Big West Conference. She also slugs .485 and has proven to be a tough contender at the plate, with only six strikeouts out of 99 at-bats this season so far. She has a record of six stolen bases, ranking her top five in the conference.

The Gauchos pitching staff is led by junior Felisha Noriega, who boasts a 5-12 record in her 22 appearances. In 87.1 innings pitched, Noriega has posted a stellar 3.37 ERA with six complete games and K/BB ratio of 55/46. Noriega will be the key to UCSB’s success as the longer she is able to go, the better chance they have of sticking around and — possibly — upsetting UC Davis. The rotation is rounded out by Veronika Gulvin, who has an ERA of 4.81, and Emily Schuttish, who has an ERA of 5.74.

On the other side, UC Davis’s successful season has been due to an elite pitching staff and a top-heavy lineup full of great hitters.

Leading the way at the dish for the Aggies is Senior Meghan Bradbury, who is batting .312 and a major power hitter. She is fourth in the Big West and first on her team with 29 RBI’s, along with seven dingers.

But Bradbury is not the only slugger in the lineup for the Aggies. Their team includes four starters recorded as batting above .300 and six starters hitting over .275. This combination provides a tough challenge that can wear down any opposing pitcher.

Davis is able to rely on their hitters to win games, but their elite pitching staff is arguably the biggest reason they’ve earned one of the best records in college softball.

Sophomore Brooke Yanez has been one of the best pitchers in the country this season as her 1.08 ERA and 164 strikeouts are each good enough to lead the Big West in each respective category, while also placing top ten in the entire country. Yanez is backed up by senior Sara Cadona, who is second in the conference with a 1.91 ERA, and by junior Katie Kibby, whose 2.69 ERA is good for seventh in the conference.

Davis’s deeply talented pitching staff has been the key to their success this season, and UCSB will have to really fight in order to win against one of the Big West’s elite teams.

The series will kick off with a doubleheader on Saturday, April 6. It begins at 1 p.m. at Campus Diamond.

A version of this article appeared on p. 8 of the April 4, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.