February 5, 2008

Gauchos Open 2008 Season in Los Angeles

Feb. 5, 2008

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• The Schedule
Games No. 1, 2, 3, 4
Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament
at UCLA's Easton Stadium (1,328)

Friday, Feb. 8, 2008
UCSB vs. Nevada, 3 pm
UCSB vs. No. 5 Oklahoma, 5:30 pm

Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008
UCSB vs. Santa Clara, 10:30 am
UCSB at No. 14 UCLA, 3:30 pm

Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008
UCSB vs. Gaucho Alumni, 12 pm
at UCSB's Campus Diamond (500)

• Let's Get Ready To Rumble....
The 2008 UC Santa Barbara softball team will make its debut this weekend when the Gauchos head to the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament (aka UCLA/Cal State Fullerton Freeway Series) being hosted by UCLA at the Bruins' Easton Stadium. UCSB will open the season against Nevada before taking on No. 5 Oklahoma in its nightcap on Friday. The following day, UCSB will face Santa Clara and No. 14 UCLA to round out tourney action. The Gauchos will top the weekend off with their annual alumni game at noon on Sunday at their very own Campus Diamond.

• Who Are These People?
The Gauchos return 16 letterwinners and five starters from the 2007 team that went 30-23 and made only the third NCAA Regional appearance in program history. Additionally, UCSB returns three 2007 All-Big West honorees, including first team selections Christine Ramos and Tisha Duran. UCSB welcomes four newcomers to the roster this season: three freshmen and a sophomore.

• In Case You Missed It: 2007 In Review
The 2007 UCSB softball team posted a 30-23 record and a 7-11 mark in Big West Conference play. The Gauchos made their third NCAA Tournament appearance in school history and their third appearance in just four years. The Gauchos played six teams ranked amongst the nation's top-25 and posted wins over three ranked squads. The biggest upset came early in the season as UCSB knocked off No. 2 Arizona State on the Sun Devil's home field with a narrow 8-7 win on Mar. 2. On Mar. 27, the Gauchos posted just their third win over No. 11 UCLA with a 3-1 victory on the Bruins' field. UCSB finished sixth in the conference, but largely in part to their successful non-conference play, they joined five other Big West schools in the 2007 NCAA Tournament pool. UCSB opened the 2007 Regionals with a 10-inning battle against Hawai'i. Despite outhitting the Wahine, 6-3, the Gauchos fell 2-0. In the final game of the season, UCSB fell to Loyola Marymount 5-3. Senior pitcher Jennifer Davis set the school and Big West Conference records for strikeouts during the 2007 season, and ended her career with a total of 846. Davis earned NFCA All-West Region Second Team and Big West Pitcher of the Year honors. Also picking up All-Big West accolades were Christine Ramos, Tisha Duran, Tiffany Wright, and senior Jessica Hejna.

• Under New Management
Last spring, head coach Kristy Schroeder stepped down after six seasons at the helm of the Gaucho program. During her tenure, Schroeder led the Gauchos to their first three NCAA Tournament appearances and three 30-win seasons. Former UCSB assistant, Brie Galicinao was chosen to replace Schroeder last June. Galicinao is a 2002 graduate of Princeton where she was a four-year starting pitcher for the Tigers and was named the 2001 and 2002 Ivy League Player of the Year. The Stockton, Calif. native served as Schroeder's assistant for the 2006 and 2007 seasons, helping guide the Gauchos to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Under her tutelage, Davis became the Big West and Gaucho career strikeout record holder and the 2007 UCSB pitching staff led the conference for ERA. Also joining Galicinao on the coaching staff are first-year assistants Caitlin Benyi, a three-time All-American at UCLA, and UCSB alum Shelby Hensler.

• No Schedule Padding Here
Once again, in an effort to prepare themselves for the always competitive Big West Conference schedule and to qualify for their fourth postseason appearance if five years, the Gauchos will play yet another difficult non-conference schedule in 2008. UCSB is scheduled to play four opponents currently ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Preseason Poll and seven teams that participated in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, including three Super Regional qualifiers and one team the advanced to the College World Series. And that is all before conference play begins. Once the Big West season gets underway, UCSB will play a total of 12 games against 2007 NCAA Tournament qualifiers: Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, and Pacific. Cal State Fullerton, which the Gauchos will play in the final conference series of the season, was a Super Regional qualifier and is currently ranked 21st nationally.

• Who Doesn't Love An Underdog?
In the 2008 Big West Coaches Preseason Poll, the Gauchos were picked seventh out of eight teams with a total of 20 votes. Cal Poly, the 2007 conference champion, beat out Cal State Fullerton by just one point for the top spot, though Fullerton garnered three first-place votes versus Cal Poly's two. UCSB, which finished sixth last season, has not posted a winning Big West record since 2004 when it went 14-7 in conference and tied for second. That second-place finish is the best all-time Big West finish in program history.

• Senior Citizens
This season's roster features five seniors, including four starters. Senior Ericka Hansen will return for her third season behind the plate. The 5'1" dynamo batted .231 in 2007 with a .357 on-base percentage and led the Gauchos with 24 walks. The catcher caught a conference-best 22 runners stealing and was second amongst the Gauchos with 345 chances and 297 putouts. Utility player Danielle Meyers will be suiting up in the blue and gold for her last season. Meyers has hit .224 during her three-year career with the Gauchos and has posted a .318 on-base percentage. It was Meyer's grand slam homer that catapulted UCSB over Arizona State last March. Senior Nicole Churnock will once again cover left field for the Gauchos this season. The Orange, Calif. native has batted .212 during her three-year career. First Team All-Big West selection Tisha Duran will once again be looked to as a strong presence at the plate. The 2007 team leader for RBI (33), total bases (81), doubles (11), and runs (33) will start at third base. Rounding out the class of 2008 is Dani Baltazar, who will compete for time in the infield.

• Junior Jibber Jabber
Juniors Christine Ramos and Tiffany Wright both return to the field after earning All-Big West honors in 2007. Ramos, a two-time all-conference selection, led the Gauchos with her .359 batting average last season. The native of Long Beach, Calif. also had a team-leading 66 hits, 184 at-bats, .389 on-base percentage, and 33 runs. The second baseman led the conference with 13 stolen bases and was ranked as the 31st toughest batter to strikeout amongst all Division I players. After two seasons with the Gauchos, she holds the current school record for career batting average at .350. Wright, who earned All-Big West Honorable Mention accolades last season, has hit .272 in her two years with the Gauchos and was second on the team for RBI (27), doubles (9), homeruns (5), and slugging percentage (.439), in 2007. Wright will once again get the starting nod in the center field this season.

• In The Circle
With the loss of their ace, Davis, the Gaucho circle becomes the true X-factor for the 2008 squad. This season, the roster contains four right handed pitchers, including three returners. Sophomore MeLinda Matsumoto, who posted a 2.63 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 98.1 innings, will see considerable time this year. The Union City, Calif. native pitched her way to a 9-6 record during her freshman campaign. Sophomore Lindsey Correa will also see more time in the circle this year. Correa posted a 3.95 ERA in 44.1 innings of work last season, she fanned 24 batters and posted a 5-1 record. Junior Tami Weston returns for her third season at UCSB, she posted a 0.86 ERA in 24.0 innings of work last season. She struckout 21 batters and posted a 2-0 record. Rounding out the Gaucho staff is newcomer, sophomore Jennifer Day from Alemany High School in Los Angeles, Calif.

• Let's Roll Out The Welcome Wagon
Three freshmen join the Gauchos this season: Jessica Beristianos, Mary Episcopo, and Katie McWhirter. Beristianos played at Newark Memorial High School where she was a three-time All-Mission Valley Athletic League selection. The Newark, Calif. native will likely receive the starting nod at shortstop. Episcopo, a three-time All-Palomar League and First Team All-CIF selection from Torrey Pines High School, and McWhirter, a three time All-Rio Hondo League, All-San Gabriel Valley, and All-CIF pick out of Monrovia High School, will be amongst the handful of Gauchos vying for time in right field.

• Wolf Pack Woo!
UCSB's first opponent of the 2008 season is Nevada, a team that posted a 28-31 overall record in 2007 and 9-9 record in the Western Athletic Conference. The Wolf Pack returns 15 letterwinners and eight starters for the 2008 season. The Gauchos hold a 5-3 advantage in the all-time series against Nevada and won the last pairing, 4-0 on Feb. 16, 2007.

• Chicks and Ducks and Geese Better Scurry...
I apologize for the random musical theater reference, I couldn't help myself. UCSB will face a hard test early this season as they take on No. 5 Oklahoma in their second game of this weekend's tournament. The Sooners posted an impressive 55-8 record in 2007 and finished second in the Big 12 regular season before winning the conference tournament. Oklahoma returns 13 letterwinners and seven starters from its 2007 Super Regional qualifying squad. The Gauchos have faced the Sooners just one other time: they suffered a 6-2 loss on Feb. 24, 2006.

• Bucking The Broncos
The 2007 Santa Clara softball team went 12-47 and finished sixth in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference with its 5-15 mark. The Broncos return five letterwinners and five starters from last year's squad. UCSB holds a 28-3 series advantage over Santa Clara and captured a pair of 4-0 and 4-3 wins over the Broncos on Feb. 25, 2007 at Campus Diamond.

• A Whole Lot Of Blue And Gold
UCSB will become familiar with No. 14 UCLA this season, as they have three games scheduled against the Bruins with the first coming this Saturday. The Bruins return nine letterwinners and four starters from the 2007 squad that went 37-18, 12-9 in the Pac-10, and also saw the first program loss to UCSB since 1991. The Gauchos are 3-48 against UCLA all-time and last season's 3-1 upset on the Bruins' turf on Mar. 27 was one of the biggest wins of the season.

• How To Catch The Action
If you can't make it to Easton Stadium this weekend, the Gaucho softball games can all be followed on Gametracker, just access the softball schedule page on UCSBGauchos.com and click the Gametracker link. Saturday's pairing with UCLA will be broadcast on internet radio, which can be accessed at UCLABruins.com.

• Coming Soon
The Gauchos will continue tournament action next week when they head to San Diego, Calif. for the Campbell/Cartier Classic being hosted by San Diego State, Feb. 14-17. UCSB will face host San Diego State, Utah State, Indiana, Fresno State, and Tulsa during the four-day event. The weekend of Feb. 22-24, UCSB will return to Campus Diamond to host its home-opening Softball by the Beach Tournament. The Gauchos will play host to Portland State and St. John's during the annual event.

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