Friday, April 29, 2016 at 3:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Hawai'i (20-25, 4-8)
All-time record vs. Rainbow Wahine: 21-45
Last Series: W, 2-1 at Hawai'i (April 24-25, 2015)
The Gauchos will play their final home series of 2016 this weekend when they host the University of Hawai'i. The Rainbow Wahine have had a slow start to conference play with a 4-8 record. Their defense has been the league's weakest with a .948 fielding percentage. Traditionally among the Big West's best power hitting teams, Hawai'i is seventh in the conference with a .339 slugging percentage, while UCSB is ahead of them in the category with a .393 mark. The team is lead by pitcher Brittany Hitchcock who is fifth in the league with a 2.28 ERA, which she has lowered to 1.65 in conference games.
UCSB will be celebrating Senior Day on Saturday when it will have a postgame ceremony honoring the Gauchos who will be playing in their final home game at Campus Diamond. The ceremony will occur immediately following the second game of the doubleheader.
Big West Round Up
With a 5-7 league record, the Gauchos are in fifth place in the conference standings. Maintaining its perfect record with a road sweep at Hawai'i, Cal State Fullerton is still the league leader with a spotless 12-0 record, which is five games ahead of second-place teams CSUN and UC Riverside. With a 38-10 overall record, the Titans made their first appearance in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll this week at No. 25. With their series win at UCSB last weekend, Long Beach State is in the middle of the pack at 6-6, just one game ahead of the Gauchos. At the bottom of the standings, Cal Poly and Hawai'i are ties for sixth at 4-8, while UC Davis's 3-9 record places it in eighth.
In Conference Action
The Gauchos have four players batting over the .300 mark since opening league play with a sweep of Cal Poly. Samantha Stark leads the way with a .393 batting average. The catcher missed the team's series with the Mustangs due to injury, but since making her return at UC Riverside, she recorded a team-high 11 hits with a pair of three-hit outings. Behind her in batting average is Arianna Palomares at .333. The Gauchos' second baseman provided their biggest hit last weekend with a game-winning home run to right field against the 49ers. With that homer, she now paces the Gauchos with a .472 slugging percentage in league action. The remaining two players with .300-plus averages are Kristen Clark and Melanie Menor with both batting .324.
Home Sweet Home
This season, the Gauchos have proven to be a better team at home than they are away. Overall, they are 11-7 at home compared to 11-18 away from Campus Diamond. In conference play, those records are 4-2 and 1-6, respectively. Beyond the win-lose column, evidence of their improved play in Santa Barbara can be noted in their team ERA (2.28 at home, 4.45 away) and their opponents' batting average (.267 at home, .311 away). But this year's trend isn't an anomaly, as the program has won .526 of its home games and just .397 of its games in away/neutral sites.
Slapping Them Silly
In recent weeks, junior Kristen Clark has taken sole possession of second place on UCSB's all-time hits list with 225 career base knocks. While she is 33 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 as she needs just 24 to do so. Currently, Clark is third in the league with both 66 hits and a .420 batting average. In addition to both those figures, she tops the Gaucho roster in nearly every major offensive category with a .480 on-base percentage, .471 slugging percentage, and 37 runs.
What Sophomore Slump?
Jessica Johnston has had a breakout year as a sophomore, as she is second on the team with both a .308 batting average and a .406 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. After batting out of the three-spot for most of the season, Jessica Johnston was taken on a new role as leadoff hitter starting in the final two games of the CSUN series. She began her tenure as the Gauchos' center fielder as well.
In the Circle
This season, the Gauchos have been led in the circle by the senior/freshman combo of Ashley Ludlow and Veronika Gulvin. In what has been a career season, Ludlow has become UCSB's featured pitcher as a senior and has delivered 11 complete game performances (fifth in the league) along with 135 strikeouts (third). Behind her, Gulvin has pitched the second most innings on the team with 99.2, as she has gone the distance six times this year. The pitchers have also each thrown no-hitters, which happened in a three-game span of the other (2/27-3/4).
Just Keep Hitting
UCSB paces the Big West with 382 hits and are hitting .307 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 307 singles, leading the second-ranked team by 18. Along with 115 walks (fourth most in the conference), the Gauchos have a team on-base percentage of .371 (third). Kristen Clark leads the way for UCSB in batting .420, while Jessica Johnston (.308), Jacqueline Hinojosa (.307), and Arianna Palomares (.307) have also surpassed the .300 hitting-plateau.
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 fourth-highest total with 191. With Sierra Altmeyer's team-leading 34 RBIs, three Gauchos are ranked among the conference's top-12 RBI leaders, the most of any team. While Altmeyer is tied for fourth, Arianna Palomares is tied for seventh with 29, and Jessica Johnston sits in 11th place with 26. Not to be overlooked in this category is Kristen Clark who has batted in the two-spot recently and leads the Gauchos in conference play with seven RBIs, nearly half of which came in a career-high three-RBI double she belted against CSUN (4/16).