Santa Barbara, Calif. – The Gauchos opened up the 2013 Big West season by splitting a doubleheader with Cal State Fullerton. UCSB's overall record moves to 20-9 and are now 1-1 in conference play.
Shelby Wisdom took the circle to start the opening game. UCSB's go-to pitcher had a slow start to the inning, dealing six straight balls, but eventually found her rhythm as she struck out consecutive Fullerton batters to retire the side.
Wisdom helped protect the slim lead through the next four innings both in the circle and at the plate. During that span, she only faced 13 batters and did not allow a hit. In the bottom of the fifth and Kathryn Pilpil on first, Wisdom woke up her bat in a big way by scorching a line drive over the left field wall for a two-run homer.
The Gauchos suddenly had a 3-0 lead, but it would be short lived as the Titans struck back in the top of the sixth and knotted the game at three. After not recording a single hit through five innings of play, Ariel Tsuchiyama crushed a ball to the warning track in centerfield for a RBI double, giving the Titans both their first hit and first run of the day.
Fullerton loaded the bases later in the inning and Melissa Sechrest would continue her team's offensive charge with a single up the middle, sending in two more Titan runners and tying the game.
UCSB could not respond in the bottom of the sixth inning, but they did have an opportunity to retake the lead. Jessica Soria was on third base with two outs when Keilani Jennings came up to bat. The Gauchos' cleanup hitter grounded out to first for the final out of the inning, and the game was still tied at 3-3.
In the top of the seventh, the Titans picked up where they left off from the last inning and picked up three more runs. The scoring ways continued for the Titans when Wisdom committed an error in her attempt to throw a runner out at home. Two batters later, the sophomore gave up a two-run single to centerfield, which gave the Titans the 6-3 lead.
Fullerton went on to retire three consecutive Gaucho batters in the bottom of the seventh and secured their 6-3 victory.
With the loss from the Big West opener still fresh in their minds, the Gauchos were able to refocus and light up the scoreboard early in the second game of the doubleheader.
Of the first six UCSB batters, five of them reached base safely and forced Fullerton to make a change in the pitcher's circle after only recording one out. Overall, Santa Barbara scored a tremendous total of five runs in in the first inning, capped off by Lauren Boser's first hit of the day. With both McKenzie Kane and Keilani Jennings in scoring position, the Gaucho first baseman sent them both home off a single, giving UCSB to commanding 5-0 lead.
The Titans kept the pressure on, though, by scoring four unanswered runs from the second inning to the top of the fifth. The Gauchos finally responded in the bottom of the fifth with two best power hitters leading off. First up, Shelby Wisdom took a walk to get on base for the Gauchos' homerun leader, Keilani Jennings. The senior recaptured the lead for UCSB by sending her sixth moonshot of the season over the right field wall.
The Titans would still keep it close by scoring off a Tsuchiyama sacrifice fly, but UCSB were able to keep them at bay in the bottom of the sixth. Jessica Soria hit second in the inning and reached base off a fielder's choice. The Gauchos' top base stealer moved into scoring position by stealing second, elevating her team-leading stolen base mark to 16. After advancing to third, Soria finally made her way across home plate after the Titan pitcher mishandled a routine throw from her catcher, making the score 8-5.
Fullerton would put another run on the board in a last inning rally, but it would prove to be too little too late. With the 8-6 victory, the Gauchos split the doubleheader and evened the series with the Titans at 1-1.
In a game that featured three UCSB pitchers, Andriana Collins, the starter, was credited with her fifth win of the year after pitching 2.1 innings and recording a strikeout. Shelby Wisdom earned her first save of the year after entering the circle in the middle of the fourth and completing the rest of the game for UCSB.
The rubbermatch will be tomorrow at 12 pm at Campus Diamond.