Gauchos Set For Evanston, Second-Ever NCAA Softball Championship Appearance This Weekend
May 16, 2006
NCAA Division I Softball Championships
Friday, May 19, 2006
At Evanston, Illinois
Sharon J. Drysdale Field
Game 1 - 12:00 p.m.*
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (24-20) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (38-19)
Game 2 - 2:30 p.m.
No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats (42-12) vs. Southern Illinois Salukis (34-11)
*All times listed as Central Daylight Time
The rest of the Regional Schedule is as follows:
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 - 11: 00 a.m.
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 - 1:30 p.m.
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3 - 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5 - 12: 00 p.m.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Gaucho fans can catch all of the excitement of this year's NCAA Tournament on KCSB 91.9 FM. or www.kcsb.org. UCSB's Campus radio station will cover all of the games live. In addition, Northwestern will graciously provide live streaming audio and video, as well as Gametracker scoring, free of charge. Fans can access these services by clicking here
The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara enters the postseason with an overall record of 24-20. After earning their first three-game sweep of the year against UC Riverside May 6-7, the Gauchos closed out their regular season schedule against NCAA participant Long Beach State last weekend. UCSB went 1-3 against the 49ers and finished in fourth place in the Big West at 8-10. The Gauchos, who won five of their last seven games to close out the year, are a respectable 17-14 away from home in 2006.
UCSB In The NCAAs: Part II
The Gauchos will be making the program's second-ever postseason appearance when they travel to Evanston for the NCAA Regionals this weekend. Santa Barbara was awarded its first NCAA Championship bid in 2004 after finishing 32-31 overall and 14-7 in the Big West, the highest conference finish in school history. UCSB lost twice in the Tucson Regional that year, falling 8-1 to Northwestern before Temple handed the Gauchos a 3-0 defeat to end their season.
Playing the Field
Of UCSB's 44 games in 2006, 17 of those came against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament, with the Gauchos posting a 7-10 record in those games. The Gauchos' non-conference schedule included wins over San Diego State, Massachusetts, Ohio State and Kansas, all of which will being participating in regional competition this weekend. Santa Barbara also recorded victories over Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, who will represent the Big West Conference along with UCSB in the tourney. In all, the Gauchos faced five opponents ranked in the Top 25 in 2006 and defeated fifth-ranked Stanford 2-0 on March 4 after Jennifer Davis limited the Cardinal offense to just three hits. Santa Barbara was scheduled to face fourth-seeded Northwestern the day before, but the game was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Those three letters mean the world to UCSB after earning a berth into this year's NCAA Softball Championships with an overall record of 24-20. One of only four schools in this year's tournament field with less than 30 victories, the strength of the Gauchos' non-conference schedule definitely made an impact on the selection committee. As of Monday, May 15 the Gauchos' ratings percentage index rank was 59 on warrennolan.com, higher than 13 schools that received automatic bids.
Out in Front
One of the Gauchos' strong points all season has been the ability to hold a lead. While most teams are generally successful in keeping a lead in the late innings, UCSB has shown the ability to put the clamps down in every frame, with the most impressive numbers coming in the early goings. The squad is an effective 8-2 when leading after the first inning, 11-3 with a lead after two, and an astounding 16-1 when ahead after three innings this season. The Gauchos continued to handle their business working with the lead in the three wins at UC Riverside two weeks ago and in their lone win over Long Beach State last weekend. Once Santa Barbara took the lead in each contest, they never trailed and went on to win all four games comfortably. For the Gauchos to be successful, it is crucial for them to get off to a good start.
Despite fielding a roster without a single senior, the 2006 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos are easily the most experienced team in school history in terms of postseason competition. In fact, UCSB's six juniors are the only players ever to don Blue and Gold who have taken part in the NCAA Softball Championships in the school's 23 years at the Division I level. As a freshmen in 2004, Jennifer Davis, Kendra Singley, Brittany Putich, Jessica Hejna, Shelby Hensler and Liz Walters made an immediate impact for the Gauchos and were a big reason that squad made its first-ever postseason appearance. Davis got the nod in Santa Barbara's first NCAA Tournament game, an 8-1 loss to Northwestern. Four of her fellow rookies also started that contest, including Singley who scored the team's lone run. Santa Barbara's "Super Six" have guided the program to an 82-73 record since arriving on campus three years ago and have been a major part of Santa Barbara's four consecutive winning seasons - a first in program history.
While many successful teams know their identity and the weaker squads struggle to find one, UCSB has won games with two distinct styles in 2006. The Gauchos have alternated between a team with a powerful offense, blowing the opposition out of the water and a team that wins close, low-scoring affairs relying heavily on pitching. Of Santa Barbara's 24 wins, 10 have come when the offense scores more than five runs. In fact, the Gauchos are a perfect when scoring at least six times. The offense exploded in a 10-1 mercy rule victory over UMASS Feb. 10, a drubbing of Oklahoma State by that same count two weeks later and, most recently, UCSB responded to an opening day sweep in its series at Cal State Northridge with a 13-5 hammering of the Matadors in the finale Apr. 23. The 13 runs were the most a Gaucho team has scored since Apr. 26, 2003. Conversely, the pitching staff has shown the ability to smother opposing hitters and the Gauchos have won 14 times when scoring five times or less. The team is an impressive 8-3 in games decided by one run and UCSB pitchers have recorded eight shutouts on the year, blanking UNLV, Hawaii and UC Davis, in addition to the big win over No. 5 Stanford.
An All-Time Great
Winner of two Big West Conference Pitcher of the Week awards this year, Davis has been a workhorse in the circle all season long. The Whittier, Calif. native has appeared in 35 of the Gauchos' 44 games, pitching a total of 215.2 innings in the process. Davis has logged 72% of UCSB's total innings pitched, and of the 32 games she has started, she has gone the distance 28 times. Just a junior, Davis posted a 2.60 ERA, 221 strikeouts (a new UCSB single season record) and only 99 walks in regular season play. Davis was the pitcher of record 33 times, posting an 18-15 record along the way and equaling the most victories ever by a Gaucho pitcher. She finished the season on a strong note; in the Gauchos' last series of the season against Long Beach State, Davis pitched all 21 innings of the three-game set and gave up just five earned runs. In the third and final game, a 2-1 loss to the 49ers, Davis also belted her third home run of the year, a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh. Davis earned Big West Pitcher of the Week distinction the week before (May 8) after starting all three games of Santa Barbara's sweep over UC Riverside in which she allowed just one earned run in 22.0 innings. Her first Big West Athlete of the Week award came after she pitched a three-hit shutout of No. 5 Stanford Mar. 4. Davis is currently second on the UCSB Career Top 10 strikeouts list with a total of 617 and her career totals of 47 wins and 573 innings pitched rank third and sixth on the all-time charts, respectively. Her 28 complete games in 2006 ranks sixth all-time while her 215.2 innings pitched ranks tenth all-time.
The Singley Watch
Junior center fielder Kendra Singley has carried a big bat for the Gaucho's in 2006, ranking first or second in batting throughout the year. One of the team's most reliable players, she is currently second, hitting .307 and has recorded a team-best nine home runs, 32 runs batted in and six doubles. The Irvine, Calif. native has homered in five of UCSB's last ten games and her season total of nine ranks third all-time. For her career, Singley has 20 home runs, the program's third-highest total, while her 89 RBI also register third in the all-time record books. In fact, she needs only four more dingers to pass Tonya Dias (1997-2000) and become the Gauchos' all-time home run leader. One week after hitting .363 (4-for-11) with two homers, two runs and five RBI in the Cal Poly series, Singley scored the eventual winning run in game two with UC Riverside on May 6 and won the finale with an RBI single in the eighth inning on May 7. This past weekend against Long Beach State, Singley hit a two-run homer in each of the first two games of the series.
Freshman second baseman Christine Ramos has been the presence at the top of the order that the Gauchos lacked in 2005 all season. Hitting in the leadoff spot for most of the year, she boasts team-highs in batting average at .336, hits with 49 and runs with 21, while her .394 on base percentage and eight stolen bases are second. Her 49 hits were the most for a UCSB player since Leslie Simien tallied 62 in 2004. Ramos ranked seventh and eighth in the Big West Conference in batting and hits, respectively and her average cracked the UCSB single season Top 10 at number seven all-time. The Long Beach, Calif. native earned Hawaiian Airlines Spring Fling All-Tournament Team honors after hitting .500 with two RBI Mar. 8-11 in Honolulu. Ramos, who went 2-for-4 and scored twice in UCSB's 8-1 win over Long Beach State last weekend, has been everything a coach could want from a leadoff hitter.
All Wright, All The Time
Freshman Tiffany Wright has been dependable from day one for Santa Barbara, starting every game at first base this season. The Corona, Calif. native is second on the squad with six homers and 19 RBI and third batting .286. The six home runs she has hit are the third most ever by a UCSB freshman and she is one shy of breaking into the single season Top 10. Since hitting a jack in her first game as a Gaucho Feb. 9, the clean-up hitter's bat has been a force in the lineup all year. Wright has been especially hot the last five weeks of the season, doubling and driving in what proved to be the winning run in Santa Barbara's 4-3 win over Pacific Apr. 8. She was also dominant against Northridge Apr. 23, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a career-high four RBI in the 13-5 win. More recently, Wright followed her 2-for-4 performance that included a run scored and an RBI in the victory over Cal Poly Apr. 30 with her sixth home run of the year in the opener with the UC Riverside two weeks ago.
After struggling at the plate early in the season, junior shortstop Brittany Putich has turned things around and continues to produce each and every week. In fact, she has been on an absolute tear since her play at UC Davis Apr. 15 helped guide the Gauchos to their first series win of the season. Against the Aggies, Putich stole three bags, scored twice and chipped in with a two-run double in the finale. The Whittier, Calif. was even better Apr. 29-30 against Cal Poly, hitting .556 (5-for-9), scoring in every game and driving in UCSB's second run in game two. She also continued her attack on the base paths, stealing three bags in the series. Putich drove in what proved to be the winning run against UC Riverside in the nightcap Saturday and scored the Gauchos' first run in the finale May 7. The two-time All-Big West honoree leads the team with 14 stolen bases and is second with 20 runs scored, while hitting a season-high .224 overall in 2006.
Jack Of All Trades
Junior left fielder Jessica Hejna has done whatever the team has needed her do to at the plate this season and she has done it well. In addition to hitting .222 with 13 runs and 15 RBI, the Orange, Calif. native led the team and the Big West with 17 sacrifice bunts and five sac flies in the regular season. She is also the only Gaucho to have started all 44 games this year and still maintain a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Hejna, who drove in a career-high four runs in the 10-1 win over Massachusetts Feb. 10, came up big in game three with Cal Poly Apr. 30, finishing 1-for-2 with a walk, a run, three RBI and a stolen base. She went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a pair of runs scored and three runs batted in Apr. 23, helping lead Santa Barbara to victory over Cal State Northridge in the series finale.
The Kristy Schroeder File
Kristy Schroeder is in her fifth season at the helm of the UC Santa Barbara softball program and continues to foster a commitment to excellence and a high level of success. Her impact has been immeasurable, as she has turned what once was a very mediocre program into one of the top squads in the conference each and every year. She took a team that was plagued by injuries in 2005 and posted a 26-22 overall record, playing one of the most difficult schedules the program had ever seen. Schroeder notched her 100th victory as head coach at UCSB February 26. In 2004, she led the Gauchos to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance after guiding them to a 32-31 overall record and a 14-7 conference mark--the highest league finish in UCSB history. In addition, the Gauchos won 30-plus games in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever as a Division I program. In 2003 Schroeder guided the team to the best record in program history at 34-22 and had a school-record nine players named All-Big West, with two receiving All-Region accolades. In 2002, her first season at UCSB, she was named the Big West's Co-Coach of the Year, after Santa Barbara finished the season with a 27-36 overall record--an increase of nine wins from the year before. In seven seasons as head coach at UCSB and Division II Truman State, Schroeder has a career record of 276-165-1 (.624), while her mark with the Gauchos is 143-131 (.522).
Scouting the Fighting Irish
UCSB faces the University of Notre Dame in their first game of the Evanston Regional. The Irish, who have won six of their last seven and five in a row, enter the postseason with a 40-19 overall record and will face the Gauchos on the heels of claiming the Big East Championship with a 1-0 victory over Louisville Sunday. Notre Dame is led by junior outfielder Stephanie Brown, who is batting a team-high .396 with 74 hits, 43 runs and 20 stolen bases. Senior first baseman Meagan Ruthrauff is hitting .365 and paces the offense with 13 doubles, 10 home runs and 39 RBI. Senior hurler Heather Booth has shouldered most of the work in the circle for the Irish, and owns an ERA of 1.39 and a 25-10 record with 229 strikeouts in 242 innings pitched. Freshman Brittany Bargar is 15-9 with a 2.99 earned run average and 154 strikeouts in 145.1 innings of work. Friday will be the fourth-ever meeting between the Gauchos and Fighting Irish, with Notre Dame winning two of the three previous matchups. The Irish took a 1-0 decision in the last meeting last season in Santa Barbara after the Gauchos were limited to six hits and left eight runners on base. UCSB's only win in the series came in 1999 when Tersea Tolson pitched the Gauchos to a 5-1 victory at the National Invitational Softball Tournament Mar. 12.