January 22, 2008

Gauchos Picked Seventh in Big West Preseason Poll

Jan. 22, 2008

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara softball team was picked to finish seventh in the Big West according to the conference's preseason coaches' poll, which was released today. Defending conference champion Cal Poly garnered the top spot in the poll, beating out Cal State Fullerton by just one point.

The Mustangs earned 56 points and two first place votes to beat out Fullerton, which garnered 55 points and three first place predictions. Long Beach State finished with 52 points and two first place votes. Pacific claimed the fourth spot with 33 points, while Cal State Northridge was right behind the Tigers with 32 points and the remaining first place vote. First year Big West member UC Davis was picked to finish sixth with 28 points, while UCSB (20) and UC Riverside (12) rounded out the poll.

The Gauchos, who are under the direction of first year head coach Brie Galicinao, return three All-Big West selections from the 2006-07 squad. All-Big West First Team pick Christine Ramos, who led the Gauchos with her .359 batting average and her school record-setting 66 hits last season, returns for her junior campaign.

First Team All-Big West pick Tisha Duran also returns after a breakout junior season. Duran batted .327 last year, tying Ramos with a team-leading 33 runs and led the squad in doubles (11) and RBI (33). Tiffany Wright rounds out the trio of returning all-conference honorees. After hitting .268 with 44 hits, nine doubles, and 27 RBI, the outfielder earned an All-Big West Honorable Mention nod in 2007.

Other starters hitting the field in the blue and gold once again this year are outfielder Nicole Churnock and catcher Ericka Hansen. Pitchers MeLinda Matsumoto, Lindsey Correa, and Tami Weston will look to fill the void left in the circle by 2007 Big West Pitcher of the Year and the conference and Gaucho all-time leading strikeout queen, Jennifer Davis.

Last season, UCSB earned its third NCAA Tournament bid in four years after going 30-23 overall and 7-11 in the Big West. The 30-win campaign was the third in five seasons for UCSB. Despite its strong overall season records, UCSB has had only one winning season in conference play in the last four years.

The Gauchos will open the 2008 season on Feb. 8 when they head to Los Angeles, Calif. for the UCLA/Cal State Fullerton Freeway Series. UCSB will play Nevada, Oklahoma, Santa Clara, and UCLA at the season-opening tournament.

2008 Big West Preseason Softball Coaches Poll
1. Cal Poly (2) - 56
2. Cal State Fullerton (3) - 55
3. Long Beach State - 52
4. Pacific - 33
5. Cal State Northridge (1) - 32
6. UC Davis - 28
7. UC Santa Barbara - 20
8. UC Riverside - 12

First-place votes are in parentheses.