ST. GEORGE, Utah. – Entering the week, close wins had already been an early-season theme for UCSB (6-10), which had an average margin of victory of just +1.3 runs through its first four victories. That theme didn't change on day one of the St. George Red Desert Classic, as the Gauchos got off to a 2-0 start to the weekend with tight wins over Utah Valley (0-6), 9-7, and Iowa State (7-8), 4-3.
Redshirt freshman Whitney Pemberton had a huge day for the Gauchos, going 5-6 at the plate for six RBIs and three runs. Of the five hits, four of them were doubles, while the other was a solo home run.
Santa Barbara, which didn't record a single error in 14 innings on Friday, is now 6-2 in games decided by two runs or less. The mistake-free play also ended a run of five straight games with an error for UCSB, which has now gone errorless in five of 16 games.
The Gauchos never trailed in their second game of the day against Iowa State, as Pemberton got things started with a solo homer in the top of the second. The Cyclones would tie things up at 1-1 on a run from senior Cathlin Bingham in the bottom of the third.
UCSB would go on to score one run in each of the next three innings to take a 4-1 lead into the seventh. First, Pemberton notched her second run of the game, making it 2-1 off a double from freshman infielder Kayla Krantz.
Junior outfielder Jessica Johnston would make it 3-1 with an unearned run in the top of the fifth, scoring on Pemberton's fourth double of the day. A sac fly from senior Kristen Clark in the sixth inning then brought freshman Genesis Ramirez home to make it 4-1.
After freshman pitcher Felisha Noriega got each of the first two batters she faced in the bottom of the seventh to ground out, Iowa State finally got a runner on base with a single from sophomore Kaylee Bosworth. On the following at bat, freshman Talyn Lewis kept the Cyclones' hopes alive, smashing her third home run of the season to cut UCSB's lead to just one at 4-3.
With two outs and the bases empty, Noriega would come up big when the Gauchos needed it most, earning her first strikeout of the day to close out the 4-3 victory. In the same game that she pitched a complete seven innings for the first time in her career, Noriega (1-4) earned her first ever win.
Pemberton was the only Gaucho with more than one hit in the game, as UCSB was outhit 7-8.
In their first game of the day against Utah Valley, the Gauchos once again used a four-run seventh inning take a 9-7 win. Three of UCSB's six wins this season have seen the Gauchos trail entering the seventh, only to snatch a late victory with a four-run inning.
After the Wolverines took a quick 4-0 lead in second inning, Pemberton, who had just two hits in her previous seven appearances, began to take over in the bottom of the fourth. The Downey, California native helped cut the lead to 4-1, bringing sophomore second baseman Sierra Altmeyer home on her first career double.
Pemberton wasn't done there. After runs from Clark and freshman Nyssa Williams cut the deficit to 4-3 in the top of the fifth, Pemberton stepped up to hit a second consecutive double, this time scoring two runs from Altmeyer and Johnston to give UCSB its first lead of the day, 5-4.
Momentum would swing back Utah Valley's way, as the Wolverines answered with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 7-5 lead.
In the top of the seventh, with runners on first and second, Pemberton once again came up big with a double to left center, bringing Johnston home to make it a one run game at 7-6. On the next at bat, senior Emily Brucelas made it to first on a fortunately-timed Wolverine error. Krantz would then strike out, putting two outs on the board.
Still trailing by one, junior Samantha Lujan extended the game with a clutch single to center field, allowing Altmeyer to tie it at 7-7. Immediately after that, senior Jacqueline Hinojosa put the Gauchos ahead with another single, scoring unearned runs from Pemberton and Brucelas to make it 9-7.
Utah Valley would then be held to zero hits in the bottom of the seventh, sealing the UCSB win.
The two teams matched each other with 14 hits apiece, as the Gauchos set a new season-high. Clark, Johnston and Lujan all finished with two hits, while Pemberton led the way with a 3-4 line at the plate.
Tomorrow will see UCSB play two games for the second straight day, as the Gauchos take on Nevada (10 am) and Southern Utah (3 pm).