The UCSB softball team will look to bounce back from a tough series loss last weekend as they take on Cal State Northridge in a three game series starting on Saturday. The Gauchos are reeling from a devastating series loss in which they let Long Beach come back in the final game to steal the win away from them. However, they did take a step in the right direction with a pair of solid offensive outputs over their last three games.
Their upcoming opponent, CSUN, is looking to pick up some momentum as we head down the stretch in conference play after earning their first Big West series win of the season against Cal Poly last weekend. The Matadors are 5-7 in the Big West which puts them in a tie for fifth with UC Riverside, while the Gauchos are still sitting in last place, with their 2-10 conference record placing them just one game behind Cal Poly.
UCSB will look to build on what was a stellar offensive series in Long Beach where they scored five runs or more in two of the three games, a feat that they had not accomplished once in conference play before then. One of the main reasons for the Gauchos’ offensive outbreak was junior infielder Devan Sperry’s arguably best series of the season, going 5-11 with multiple hits in two of the games; she became a much-needed contributor to a team that desperately needed more run production. Sophomore infielder Maci Fines also had a stellar series as she recorded a hit in each game, solidifying herself as one of the most consistent producers on the team.
An encouraging note for UCSB is that sophomore outfielder Sammy Fabian is due to get back to her old ways and start hitting again as she has cooled off after she was nearly unstoppable earlier in the year. Fabian is hitting .397 on the season but just .250 in conference play, as she has been unable to put together consistent at-bats as of late. This is encouraging for the team because they seem to be improving on offense even with their best hitter being in a bit of a slump. If she can break out along with the rest of her teammates, the Gauchos might be able to peak near the end of the season and surprise some folks.
Cal State Northridge also has some positive momentum going their way, however, as they were able to claim their first Big West series victory of the season mainly due to the great work of their pitching staff. Northridge is not the deepest squad in the Big West by any means; however, they have a pair of quality pitchers to look out for along with possibly the most dangerous hitter in the entire conference.
CSUN has two pitchers that rank in the top 10 in the Big West in terms of E.R.A. Sophomore Kenedee Jamerson’s 3.19 mark puts her at ninth overall, and sophomore pitcher Jillian James and her 2.15 E.R.A. is good for fourth in the league. James is the clear ace of the staff, as she leads the entire conference in innings pitched, with 172.1, and she is also second overall with 187 strikeouts.
Aside from the pitchers, the one person who the team should gameplan for is junior outfielder and pitcher Megan Stevens, who bats .455 on the season with 47 runs batted in. These stats, paired with her 12 home runs on the season, demonstrate the power and skill of Stevens, but it is more important to stress that no one else on her team hits over .300, so if the Gaucho pitchers can neutralize her, they will put themselves in a position to win.
The three-game set begins with a Saturday doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. at Campus Diamond.