Softball Season Preview Part III: The Infield

Feb. 2, 2009

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Today we continue the four-part preview of the 2009 UC Santa Barbara softball season with an outlook on the Gaucho infielders.

The UC Santa Barbara infield returns most of its core from the 2008 campaign. Senior Christine Ramos returns to cover second base while junior Jessica Ziegler will once again be at first. Jessica Beristianos also returns to the infield, but will make the move from shortstop to third base, replacing 2008 graduate Tisha Duran at the hot corner.

"Like the outfield, there is a nice mixture of veterans and rookies in the infield," head coach Brie Galicinao said. "The whole right side is basically going to be the same with Ramos being a four-time starter really anchoring down the infield.

"Ziggy (Ziegler) will be in her second year at first base starting and she worked really well with Ramos," Galicinao continued. "Jess will be moving over to third base and she did a fantastic job at shortstop last year but it is a matter of what is going to make our left side of the infield stronger. I just really think the third base position is going to be a great move for her. Like I said she was a fantastic shortstop, but I think she is going to be a phenomenal third baseman just because she has such a good glove."

Ramos, a three-time All-Big West selection and two-time First Team honoree, returns to the Gauchos for her final season. A leader on defense and a sparkplug on offense, Ramos will once again be relied upon to bring her unique energy to the field each and every game.

Currently UCSB's career batting leader with a .346 average, Ramos was third on the team with a.339 average in 2008 and led the team and conference in hits with 65. In addition to her offensive output, she has posted a .948 fielding percentage during her three seasons in a Gaucho jersey.

Ziegler had a breakout season in 2008 that culminated in All-Big West Honorable Mention honors. She batted .253 on the season with 45 hits. She was third on the team with 36 runs and led the team with 16 stolen bases. At first base, she posted a .988 fielding percentage and led the Big West Conference with her 16 double plays.

"Offensively, the one-two punch of Ramos and Ziggy is going to be nice to have back," Galicinao said of her leadoff hitters. "Half of the time, I don't know what Ramos and Ziggy are going to do because we work so much in practice on the different options; in games I don't give them signals. They are free to do whatever they want, so I just like to watch and see what they come up with. They work really hard and we talk a lot about situations, so once its game time, it's like play time."

The Gauchos' new third baseman, Beristianos, started all 54 games during her freshman season and posted a .260 batting average with 40 hits. She tallied 15 extra-base hits and was third on the team with 23 RBI.

"Jess was one of our clutch hitters last year," Galicinao said. "Wherever she is in the lineup, whether its fourth or fifth, I think she is going to pick up where she left off from last year. She has good hands and is able to get the bat on the ball and make things happen for us. Plus she is, like a lot of our base runners, smart and aggressive."

The rookies in the Gaucho infield are freshman Keilani Jennings and Amanda Ziegler (sister of Jessica). Jennings will fill in at shortstop and Ziegler, a utility player, may fill in at the corner or the middle, or even in the outfield.

Jennings comes to UCSB out of Newbury Park High School where she was the 2008 Maramonte League Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

"Keilani and Jess compliment each other well defensively and Keilani has also been working well with Ramos up the middle," Galicinao said. "She is just a smart player and has all-around athleticism. With (assistant coach) Caitlin (Benyi), she has improved a lot since fall in her glove work.

"Keilani adds a lot of power to the middle of our lineup, whether she is hitting behind Tiffany (Wright) or behind Jess (Beristianos), she is another hitter who is going to make something happen," Galicinao concluded.

The Gaucho season gets underway this Friday, Feb. 6 when UCSB heads to the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Santa Barbara will face Oregon, Wichita State, McNeese State, Wagner, Penn State and No. 7 Arizona during the three-day tournament.

For a chance to catch all of the Gauchos' games at Campus Diamond this season, the UCSB Athletics Department is, for the first-time, offering season tickets. Ticket prices are $50 for adults, $40 seniors (55 and over) and $24 youth (13 and under) and include all 16 home contests. With the purchase of a season ticket, you will also receive a free UCSB visor. To purchase tickets, click here.

The 2009 UCSB softball season preview will conclude on Tuesday with a look at the Gaucho pitchers and catchers.

Part I: The Journey Ahead
Part II: The Outfielders

UCSB - a nationally recognized university in both academic and athletic excellence - is located on the central coast of California in a picturesque campus and community setting on the Pacific Ocean. Each year over 450 Division 1 Gaucho student-athletes compete for national championships, succeed in the classroom and give back to the community.

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