The UCSB softball team came close to their first Big West series win but ended up falling just short against Long Beach State in the series finale after splitting the first two games. With this series in the books, UCSB still finds themselves in last place in the Big West with a conference record of 2-10 to go along with their 8-35 mark for the season.
The Friday night doubleheader started out well for the Gauchos as they bested Long Beach by a score of 6-2. A brilliant outing from junior pitcher Felisha Noriega was a major factor in the Gauchos’ win as she threw 4.2 innings and allowed no runs to score on only two hits given up.
Noriega was given an immediate three-run cushion from her offense in the first inning, something that that Gauchos have struggled to do all season.
All three first-inning runs were scored by bases-loaded walks given up by Long Beach pitcher Devyn Magnett, as the Gauchos succeeded in putting considerable early pressure on a LBSU pitching staff that has struggled as of late. UCSB scored another run in the top of the third on a sacrifice fly by senior infield Melanie Menor to make it 4-0 Gauchos.
Three Gauchos, sophomore infield Maci Fines, junior infield Devan Sperry and junior infield Kayla Krantz, recorded multiple hits in an offensive outburst by Santa Barbara. Both teams put up a run in the sixth and seventh innings before a popup with runners on second and third ended the game for Long Beach, and UCSB hung on to win 6-2.
The second game of the evening ran less smoothly for UCSB as they were unable to contain Long Beach’s offense any longer, falling to the 49ers 6-1.
The Gauchos could not find the spark they had in the game before as they only recorded five hits as a team, as opposed to the 10 hits they had in the previous game. Long Beach was up 2-0 after the second inning thanks to a solo homer by Nichole Fry in the first, followed by an RBI single by Katelyn Hanson in the second.
Both teams were then quiet until the fifth inning where Fry racked up another RBI on a sacrifice fly to give the 49ers a 3-0 advantage late in the game. UCSB threatened in the sixth as they brought the tying run to the plate but were only able to cut the deficit to 3-1 in favor of Long Beach. A pair of homers for LBSU in the sixth put the game away for good as Maddy Ruffin and Taylor Rowland both went yard for the final runs of the game to secure a 6-1 Long Beach win.
The final game of the three-game set proved to be the most entertaining of the series, as UCSB used a four-run fourth inning to propel themselves to a 5-0 advantage entering the fifth. The Gauchos put up their runs thanks to three one-run singles and a two-run double by Fines, and they looked to have broken away from Long Beach for the second time in three games.
The 49ers threatened in the fifth and loaded the bases in the sixth, but only managed to score two runs and cut the deficit to 5-2. That is before a nightmare inning for UCSB allowed Long Beach to score four runs off of three walks, a hit by pitch, a sac fly and two singles, culminating with a walk-off two-run single by Maddy Ruffin to seal the deal and win the series for LBSU by a score of 6-5.
The Gauchos will look to bounce back against Cal State Northridge as they return home to play a three-game series against the Matadors next Saturday.