SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UCSB (14-14) got back to its winning ways on the opening day of the Gaucho Classic II, earning a pair of wins, 6-5 over Seattle (9-20) and 6-1 against San Diego (11-14).
"We had some timely hitting, solid defensive plays and we competed," head coach Brie Galicinao said. "All of the teams in this tournament compete from start to finish, so it's nobody's game until the very last inning."
Senior Kristen Clark and sophomore Sierra Altmeyer led the way with four hits each for the day, while freshman Alyssa Diaz had a team-high three RBIs. Santa Barbara jumped out to a 5-0 lead in each of the winning efforts.
"We have a pretty young lineup and people in new places, so we're starting to figure things out defensively, playing more team softball. And offensively, they're adjusting a lot faster, hitting situationally," Galicinao said.
Coming off of multiple injuries, sophomore pitcher Ashley Wright made her season debut, appearing in both games. Against the Redhawks, she recorded her first career save after coming on in the top of the seventh with the Gauchos holding on to a slim one-run advantage. Then, in her first start of the year against San Diego, she held the Toreros to one run with two strikeouts, pitching just under six full innings.
Following the win over Seattle, the Gauchos improved their season record against the Toreros to 2-0, holding them to just a single run in the 6-1 victory. Second baseman Sierra Altmeyer was a perfect 3-3 at the plate with one RBI, also tallying a team-high two runs. Her sole RBI came on a triple in the bottom of the first, bringing home sophomore shortstop Melanie Menor to give the Gauchos an early 1-0 lead.
Earning the team's top mark in RBIs was junior outfielder Jessica Johnston, who recorded her only two of the day on a two-run homer that slipped just inside the right field line in the bottom of the third. The home run – which was her second-leading third of the season – also brought Menor home for the second time in the game, giving the hosts an early 3-0 lead. Two at bats later, Altmeyer would complete her first of two trips around the bases on a double from Diaz to make it 4-0.
The Gauchos would extend their lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth, as a Menor single brought senior Jacqueline Hinojosa home for her second run of the day.
San Diego's offense, which was facing pitcher Ashley Wright (1-0) in her first start of the season, was able to scratch for the first time in the top of the fifth. Junior Sarah Stone scored the Toreros' only run of the game on a single by freshman Sara Silveyra, making it 5-1.
Altmeyer would cap the Gauchos' scoring efforts for the day in the bottom of the fifth, scoring her second run of the game off a single up the middle by junior catcher Samantha Lujan.
UCSB outhit San Diego 10-5, with both Clark and Menor following up Altmeyer's team-high of three hits with two apiece. The 6-1 scoreline was the Gauchos' second-largest margin of victory this season.
Facing the Redhawks in their first game of the day, the Gauchos jumped out to a 5-0 lead through three innings on their way to what would become a tight 6-5 win, ending a four-game skid. Leading the way for UCSB was Diaz, who went 2-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs.
Clark added another 2-4 mark at the plate, while Lujan and senior third baseman Emily Brucelas picked up the Gauchos' other two RBIs despite both going 0-2.
After holding the Redhawks to two runs through the first six innings, sophomore pitcher Veronika Gulvin (9-6) gave way for Wright late in the seventh, after Seattle had cut the lead to 6-5. With two outs and one runner on base, Wright was able to put the game to bed right against the first batter she faced, earning her first career save.
UCSB opened the scoring in the bottom of the second, as Diaz capitalized on a Redhawk error to give the home side an early 1-0 lead.
The Gauchos would pile on four more runs in the third. The first two came from Johnston and Menor on Diaz' second consecutive double to open the game. On the next at bat, Altmeyer would score to make it 4-0 on a sac fly by Lujan. Soon after, Diaz made it 5-0 as Brucelas grounded out to second base.
A pair of Seattle runs in the fourth and fifth cut the lead to 5-2 before Hinojosa scored on another Redhawk error to push the lead to 6-2. That would prove to be the deciding run, as Seattle's late comeback bid fell just short following a three-run spurt in the top of the seventh.
The Gauchos were outhit 12-8 on the day but benefited from the Redhawks' two errors, both of which led to unearned runs.
"Coming off of finals week, with Spring break coming up and conference right around the corner, this is our time to work through any last adjustments and fine-tune all the things that we've been working on throughout the season," Galicino said.
Santa Barbara will be back in action tomorrow for two more games with a rematch against San Diego (11:15 a.m.) followed by an afternoon matchup with Santa Clara (3:45 p.m.).