Sierra Altmeyer makes contact with the ball. Siavash Ghadiri/Daily Nexus

The Gauchos will look to bounce back from a series sweep at the hands of Hawaii as they travel down to Long Beach to play their next series against Long Beach State. UCSB’s 7-33 overall record and 1-8 conference record puts it in eighth place in the Big West, while LBSU sits in fifth place with a 17-21 overall record and a 4-5 record in conference. Both teams are still trying to gain some positive momentum as they get deeper into Big West play, as LBSU has only won one series in conference play so far, while UCSB is still looking for its first series win of the season.

The Gauchos will ride the bats of Sammy Fabian and Maci Fines in the hopes of finally breaking out on offense, as they have yet to score more than three runs in any Big West matchup so far this season. Sammy Fabian’s bat has cooled off slightly from an incredible .473 non-conference average to just .286 since the start of conference play, but she did go 3-9 in the last series against Hawaii and was just one of two Gauchos to record a multiple hit game against the Rainbow Wahine. Sophomore Maci Fines has also solidified herself as one of the more consistent hitters in UCSB’s lineup, as she has held steady throughout the whole season and is second on the team with a .250 batting average in conference play. If Santa Barbara wants to show some improvement and win more games down the stretch, it will need more hitters to step up and produce, because by only scoring 10 runs in its first nine conference games, the pitching staff has fielded a lot of pressure to keep games within reach.

Run support and strong outings from the pitchers will be especially key for the Gauchos as they try to slow down arguably the best offense in the Big West. LBSU has four hitters inside the top 15 in terms of batting average in the conference, all hitting above .336 on the season. The Beach’s lineup is spearheaded by Jamie Wren, whose .367 batting average ranks seventh in the Big West. She also ranks in the top 10 in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs and total bases. As a team, Long Beach ranks first in overall batting average, hits and doubles, and it has proven to be elite at putting the ball in play as it has the least amount of strikeouts in the entire conference.

The Gauchos will have to look to exploit Long Beach’s pitching staff, which has been its most notable weakness on an otherwise well-rounded team. Through nine Big West games, Long Beach ranks last in terms of combined ERA at 4.63, as opposed to UCSB, whose 3.56 mark ranks sixth in the conference. LBSU has a potent offense that can put up runs in a hurry, but its pitching staff has been unable to keep opponents at bay, and that is where it is limited as a team. Long Beach has given up five or more runs in five of its nine conference games, and it has a 1-4 record in those games. If there is any team that UCSB’s offense can break out of its slump against, it is a team like Long Beach that has had a lot of difficulty limiting the scoring of its opponents.

The Gauchos will look to gain some momentum on the road before returning home for two consecutive series following this one.

The series against Long Beach will begin with a doubleheader on Friday, April 19, with the first game starting at 1 p.m., followed by the series finale on Saturday.

A version of this article appeared on p.11  of the April 18, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus