SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In UCSB's Senior Day regular season finale on Saturday afternoon, a pair of late runs by outfielders senior Kristen Clark and junior Jessica Johnston helped give the Gauchos a 2-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton. Led by another stellar performance from junior pitcher Lena Mayer, the shutout effort gave UCSB a 2-1 series win over this year's Big West champions.
In Saturday's first game, the Gauchos mounted a furious comeback in the bottom of the seventh, nearly erasing a 6-0 deficit before eventually falling just short, 6-5.
Pitching just her second complete game of the year, Mayer held the conference leaders scoreless with just four hits to give UCSB (31-26, 11-10) a 2-0 win in its final regular season game. Mayer (5-1) finished with a 2-0 mark against Fullerton (33-21, 16-5) for the weekend as she recorded the first seven inning shutout of her career. She held the Titans without a run in all 12 of the innings that she pitched during the series.
After going scoreless through the first five innings, the Gauchos finally pulled ahead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Already having reached second base, Clark opened things up with a run off a single up the middle by freshman Alyssa Diaz. In a play that was nearly identical to the one preceding it, sophomore Melanie Menor would then bring Johnston home in the same manner to make it 2-0.
Facing one out in the top of the seventh, the Titans found themselves in a position to tie or take the lead with two runners on base. However, as she did in Friday's 4-3 win, Mayer stayed composed as she picked up outs on Fullerton's next two batters to end the game.
The Titans' four hits were tied for their lowest mark of the conference season. It was the first time they were shutout in their last 18 outings.
Six different Gauchos recorded a single hit in the game, including seniors Clark, Emily Brucelas and Jacqueline Hinojosa. Those three players along with senior Stacy Cavazos were playing in their final game at Campus Diamond.
The Gauchos' latest win improves their record to 20-6 in games decided by two runs or less this year. They also improved to a 3-1 record in home conference series this season, taking a 2-1 series win for the third time.
Saturday's opening game saw UCSB fall by a final score of 6-5 following a late offensive outburst in the bottom of the seventh. Two Fullerton errors in the final inning helped keep UCSB alive as it attempted to erase what was a 6-0 deficit through six and a half innings.
With one out on the board, Diaz scored the Gauchos' first run of the day off a single by Brucelas to make it 6-1. Cavazos would then make it home from third, cutting the deficit to 6-2 after a swing by junior Samantha Lujan led to a Titan throwing error towards first base.
Brucelas then brought the score to 6-3 as freshman Kayla Krantz hit a hard ball down the middle that the Fullerton infield failed to swoop up cleanly, adding another error.
Several batters later, Johnston found herself in position to win the game with a grand slam for the second consecutive day, facing two outs with the bases loaded. With a full count and following numerous foul balls, Johnston delivered in the clutch again, this time with a single to left field, scoring two runs from Clark and freshman Nicole Marino.
Needing one more run to extend the game, UCSB would come up just short, leaving two runners on base after Fullerton snagged the third out. Both teams finished with eight hits, with the Gauchos recording half of theirs' in the seventh inning alone. Menor and Brucelas both led the way with 2-3 marks at the plate, while Johnston had a team-high two RBIs.
Early mistakes plagued UCSB, as it recorded all four of its errors for the day through the first four innings. The Gauchos gave up four runs in the third and two in the fourth, but only one of those runs was earned.
Prior to the game, UCSB's four seniors were honored as part of the team's annual Senior Day celebration. This won't be the last time that they suit up to play though, as the Gauchos will see postseason action this Tuesday in the inaugural NISC Tournament. The tournament schedule is set to be released on Sunday.