UCSB to Host Cal, Three-Game Series with Long Beach State

Arianna Palomares (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Arianna Palomares (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

The Schedule
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal (21-17-1, 6-7-1)
All-time record vs. Golden Bears: 3-18
Last Time: L, 5-1 at UNLV Rebel Classic (March 3, 2015)
Live Stats

Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. (Doubleheader)
UC Santa Barbara vs. Long Beach State (24-16, 4-5)
All-time record vs. 49ers: 33-80-1
Last Series: L, 3-0 at Long Beach State (May 8-9, 2015)
Game One Live Stats | Game Two Live Stats

Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 1:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Long Beach State
Live Stats

This Week
UCSB will be wrapping up its nonconference slate this Wednesday when they host Cal at 2 p.m., which will also open a season long seven-game homestand. The Golden Bears roster features the Pac 12's hits leader in Jazmyn Jackson who was 57 hits under her belt. After receiving votes in last week's USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll, Cal avoided a sweep at Washington last weekend with a 5-3 win on Sunday. Later this week, the Gauchos will resume Big West play with Long Beach State who is currently tied with UCSB in third place. The 49ers boast one of the best pitching staffs in the conference with a league-leading 250 strikeouts and a combined 2.57 ERA (second). 

Last Week Recap
Last weekend, the Gauchos were dealt a 2-1 series loss at Cal State Northridge. The team picked up a 6-2 win in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, as Kristen Clark led the Gauchos by going 2-3 with two runs and three RBIs in the game. The junior went on to hit a team-high .400 (4-10) through the series.

Big West Round Up
With a 4-5 league record, the Gauchos find themselves in a four-way tie with UC Riverside, Long Beach State, and Hawai'i for third in the Big West entering this weekend. So far, the talk of the league has been Cal State Fullerton who has swept its way through the first three weekends and owns a perfect 9-0 record, which is four games ahead of second-place CSUN. Cal Poly also made some noise last weekend after sweeping the 49ers for theirs first series win this year.

More of Menor
Though only a freshman, Melanie Menor looks more than comfortable through the first nine Big West games of her Gaucho career. The shortstop is leading UCSB with a .385 batting average (eighth in the league) and is tied with Kristen Clark with 10 hits, including two doubles. Her .429 on-base percentage also tops the roster and is the eighth highest in the Big West. Her recent play has picked up her overall batting average to .316, which is fourth on the team and best among UCSB infielders.

Johnston at the Plate
After batting out of the three-spot for most of the season, Jessica Johnston was moved up to leadoff in the final two games of the CSUN series. In those games, the sophomore went 3-7 (.429) with a double, a run, and a walk. Overall on the year, she is second on the team with both a .338 batting average and a .474 slugging percentage. She is the only Gaucho to have hit multiple triples with three, which ties her for the third most in the league. Johnston also holds the distinction along with Samantha Stark to have at least one of each kind of hit, as she has recorded nine doubles and a home run.

Just Keep Hitting
UCSB paces the Big West with 358 hits, while hitting .305 as a team. While the Gauchos are in the middle of the pack in the three extra base hits categories (2B, 3B, HR), they make up for at with their league-high 290 singles, leading the second-ranked team by 16. Along with 111 walks (third most in the conference), the Gauchos have a team on-base percentage of .378 (also third). Kristen Clark leads the way for UCSB in batting .434, which places her 34th among all NCAA players. 

Slapping Them Silly
In recent weeks, junior Kristen Clark has taken sole possession of second place on UCSB's all-time hits list with 222 career base knocks. While she is 36 hits shy of Christine Ramos's program record, Clark is still in a fair position to break into the Big West's career top-10 hits list by the end of the season, which will require her to make 27 hits to join. Currently, Clark is third in the league with both 63 hits and a .434 batting average. In addition to both those figures, she tops the Gaucho roster in nearly every major offensive category with a .494 on-base percentage, .490 slugging percentage, and 32 runs. Clark is also riding a team-high seven-game hitting streak heading into this week. 

In the Circle
Through the start of conference plays, the Gauchos have been treated to some stellar pitching performances from senior Ashley Ludlow and freshman Veronika Gulvin. After a junior season when she pitched more innings than her first two years combined, Ludlow has become UCSB's featured pitcher and has delivered 10 complete game performances (fifth in the league) along with 127 strikeouts (third). Behind the senior, Gulvin has pitched the second most innings on the team with 95, as she has gone the distance six times this year, including in last Saturday's 6-1 victory at CSUN. The pitchers have also each thrown no-hitters, which happened in a three-game span of the other.

The Backstop is Back
Catcher Samantha Stark made her return to the diamond after missing the previous eight games due to injury. Offensively, the senior didn't skip a beat in her return with a 3-for-3 performance and she later went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and scored a run in the second game of the doubleheader. Stark is now just one of three Gauchos to hit better than .300 in conference play with a .316 average.

FYIs on RBIs
Along with their high volume of hits, the Gauchos are just as prolific in the RBI category with the Big West's third-highest total with 179.  With Sierra Altmeyer's team-leading 30 RBIs, three Gauchos are ranked among the conference's top-10 RBI leaders, the most of any team. While Altmeyer is tied for fourth, Jessica Johnston and Arianna Palomares are tied for ninth with 26 apiece. Not to be overlooked in this category is Kristen Clark who leads the Gauchos in conference play with seven RBIs, nearly half of which came in a three-RBI double she belted last weekend as she was batting in the two-spot.