Five Gauchos Named All-Big West, Clark Garners Second Career First Team Selection

Kristen Clark and assistant coach Julia Tamai
Kristen Clark and assistant coach Julia Tamai

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Led by First Team All-Big West junior outfielder Kristen Clark, five UCSB softball players were named all-conference, while a record three were voted to the all-freshman team, the conference announced on Wednesday.

Clark earned her second career first team selection, as freshman first baseman Sierra Altmeyer, senior second baseman Arianna Palomares, and senior catcher Samantha Stark all earned second team honors. Senior pitcher Ashley Ludlow made her first career all-conference selection as an honorable mention.

The Gauchos also made history with three players named to the all-freshman team in Altmeyer, pitcher Veronika Gulvin, and shortstop Melanie Menor.

In her junior campaign, Clark became the first Gaucho ever to bat .400 on a season for the second time in her career. With a .403 batting average and 72 hits, the outfielder finished with the program's third-best single-season mark in both categories, which coincidentally also ranked third among Big West players this season.

The speedster spent the majority of the season as the team's leadoff hitter and went on to pace the roster with 41 runs, which is yet another third-best single season mark for Clark. Despite missing three games this year, that total puts her fifth among conference players and just seven behind the conference-leading mark of 48.

Clark also ranked among the conference's top-10 in on-base percentage (.457 – fourth) and stolen bases (17 – eighth). Now through her three seasons at UCSB, she has picked up 51 swipes, placing her fourth in the program's record book.

If that were not enough, the Danville, Calif. native has etched her name in two other career top-10s with the Gauchos, as she moved past 11 players in the career hits list this year and is now second in UCSB history with 231, putting her 27 shy of Christine Ramos's program record. She also has a career total of 105 runs, making her just the seventh Gaucho ever to surpass the 100-run benchmark.

After a stellar freshman campaign, Altmeyer emerged as UCSB's best power hitter and garnered two postseason recognitions in making both the second team and all-freshman team. The first baseman led the Gauchos with two Big West Field Player of the Week accolades with her most recent one coming off the heels of the UC Davis series when she hit for .700 and slugged for 1.500 with a pair of homers. In the second game of that road series, she delivered UCSB's game-winning run with a solo blast.

In her first weekend in a Gaucho uniform, Altmeyer looked like anything but a freshman when she batted .647 and slugged 1.176 at the Arizona Hillenbrand Invitational. She made a great first impression in her collegiate debut when she went 3-for-4 with two homers and a double, scoring four runs. And in facing her first nationally ranked team in No. 13 Arizona, the rookie was unfazed and collected her third three-hit performance of the weekend.

Altmeyer finished her first season with a .297 batting average – .306 in conference –  and a team-high 42 RBIs, which is tied for the third-most by a Gaucho in a single season and third-best among Big West players this year. She also paced the team with seven home runs (fifth in conference), three of which she hit during a four-game stretch during conference play.

Also making the second team is Palomares who was one of the Gauchos' best hitters with runners on base, as she ranked fourth in the league with 37 RBIs, tying her for seventh in the program record book. Apt in scoring runs herself, the second baseman finished with 30 runs, the second-most on the team and the 12th most in the Big West.

The senior has come up with 10 doubles this year – second on the team – and has slugged for .411, including the team's second-best mark of .429 in league play. With those 10 two-base knocks, Palomares finishes her career with the fourth-most doubles ever by a Gaucho with 38.

After missing UCSB's first conference series, Stark came back as UCSB's most productive hitter in Big West play with a team-leading .345 batting average (fourth in the league) along with 19 hits, second-most on the team. She missed eight straight games due to injury overall, but made her return in a big way with a 5-for-7 performance in a twin bill at UC Riverside. That day got Stark off to a strong start, as she ended the conference season as the only Gaucho to average more than one hit per game (1.06).

Her best weekend came at UC Davis when she recorded three straight two-hit performances and clubbed a homer in the series opener.

With her first career All-Big West selection, Stark continues a recent trend of UCSB catchers making the all-conference team, as a Gaucho backstop has now been named all-league in four of the past five seasons.

Ludlow capped off her Gaucho career with her most productive season ever after taking on the role as UCSB's ace. The right-handed pitcher delivered 13 complete game performances (sixth in the league) and came up one strikeout shy of the league's top mark with 194, which is the seventh-most by a Gaucho in a single season.

Overall, she averaged 6.16 strikeouts per game, easily the best on the team and the fourth-highest in the conference. Ludlow made a habit of fanning batters throughout the season, as she recorded at least five strikeouts in 13 games this season including five such performances in five consecutive appearances.

Highlighting her 2016 campaign, the Petaluma, Calif. native tossed a no-hitter against Georgia Tech in the Gaucho Classic II. In that game, she faced just 23 Yellow Jackets and saw only two reach base, both on walks.

Following UCSB's conference opening series versus Cal Poly, Ludlow was named the College Sports Madness Big West Player of the Week. It was a career weekend for her, as she tossed 14 of the series' 21 innings and went 2-0, as she bookended the team's three-game sweep of its rival, holding them to six total hits and one run in her starts.

Gulvin was the second pitcher recognized by the conference today, as she made the all-freshman team. Since the league started voting for all-freshman teams in 2014, Gulvin becomes UCSB's first rookie hurler to earn the accolade.

With eight wins, Gulvin finished second to Ludlow's 10 for the most on the team after throwing 113.1 innings. She logged six complete games, including her no-no against Charleston Southern when she tossed five innings and struck out seven batters. Only three Buccaneers reached base that day after a hit by pitch and two UCSB errors. Thanks to nine Gaucho runs in the fourth, UCSB walked away with a mercy-rule victory after five frames.

Rounding out the Gaucho trio on the all-freshman team is Melanie Menor who led UCSB with 20 hits during conference play. The shortstop hit her stride in the team's Big West slate, as she opened the league schedule on a five-game hitting streak and ended up third on the team with a .308 batting average. In conference, she was one of two Gauchos to reach double figures in the RBI column with 10 and paced the roster with four doubles.

Menor ended the season on a high note, as she recorded a pair of two-hit games against league champion Cal State Fullerton and clubbed the game-winning home run in the second contest of the series. It was the second of her two game-winners this year.

As a team, the Gauchos finished the 2016 campaign setting two program records with 460 hits and a .302 team batting average.