Gauchos Trade Wins in Big West Battle

Sierra Altmeyer (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Sierra Altmeyer (Photo by Tony Mastres)

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – Sophomore pitcher Felisha Noriega continued her stellar second half of the season and junior second baseman Sierra Altmeyer was joined by the freshman group of centerfielder Rayna Cohen, right-fielder Alyssa Lazatin, left-fielder Sammy Fabian, and third baseman Maci Fines in having multiple hits in either game of the doubleheader between the UC Santa Barbara softball team and the CSUN Matadors at Matador Diamond in Northridge. UC Santa Barbara (18-29, 5-9 Big West) won the first game 9-5 and lost the second 8-1 to CSUN (19-33, 4-10 Big West).

Game 1

UCSB spread out their scoring across three innings to take the first game of the doubleheader. With two outs in the first inning, sophomore first baseman Alyssa Diaz earned a base on balls and advanced to third after Altmeyer doubled along the left field line. Cohen was walked next at-bat to load the bases, and the first run scored after senior catcher Samantha Lujan benefitted from CSUN pitcher Jillian James' third walk of the inning due to an illegal pitch on Lujan's swinging strike three. Fines followed that up by tacking on two more runs to the Gauchos' tally by singling up the middle to bring Altmeyer and Cohen home.

CSUN closed the gap to one run after shortshop Savannah Horvath's two-run home run to left in the bottom half of the inning.

The Gauchos extended their lead next inning thanks to another Sierra Altmeyer ground-rule RBI double to score Fabian to go up 4-2, Altmeyer's team-leading 23rd RBI this season. After a CSUN pitching change, Cohen hit a two-RBI single up the middle to bring Diaz and Altmeyer across the plate.

CSUN again put two runs on the board in the bottom of the fourth, but the Gauchos used the next inning to score three more to negate the hosts' comeback bid. Fines bunted to CSUN pitcher Kenedee Jamerson to get on base and advanced to third on a fielding error. After another Matador pitching change, Fines scored on a second fielding error which also saw junior shortstop Melanie Menor reach first base. One out later, sophomore designated player Genesis Ramirez sent the ball out of the park with a two-run homer to left.

The Matadors added another run in the bottom of the seventh inning, but freshman pitcher Emily Schuttish struck out three in her three-inning relief performance to earn her second save of the season. Noriega improved to 6-6 in her 2018 campaign after a four-inning start, in which she allowed only five hits and walked two. Jillian James dropped to 7-18 for CSUN.

Game 2

The Matadors rebounded in game two of the doubleheader, defeating the Gauchos 8-1 after a strong first inning, kicking off the scoring with a two-run home run from third baseman Jessica Alexander. CSUN took advantage of Gaucho miscues to score three more runs in the first, also scoring a run in the fifth and two in the sixth to secure their lead.

The lone UCSB score came after senior pitcher Lena Mayer made an appearance at the plate as designated player in the top of the sixth inning, with Fabian and Lazatin on first and second thanks to singles of their own. Mayer reached on a fielder's choice and CSUN committed an error on the throw from shortstop for Lazatin to round third and score.

The Gauchos fell victim to improved defending from the Matadors and a strong pitching performance from Cheyenne Noli, in which she allowed only six hits and forced contact towards the ground, with three Gauchos grounding out into double plays.

Noli pitched a complete game and earned the win. Junior pitcher Veronika Gulvin was given the loss for UCSB and dropped to 5-10 on the season. Noriega and Schuttish appeared in relief.

The Gauchos, currently sitting at 6th in the Big West, face CSUN in the rubber match for the series at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow in Northridge.