June 25, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara softball team continued its recent tradition of success during the 2008 season as the squad shattered several school records and garnered several of the Big West Conference's top accolades. Under first-year head coach Brie Galicinao, the Gauchos celebrated several milestones this past spring.
For The Record
The 2008 Gauchos finished the season with a 30-24 record, marking the eighth 30-win season in program history and just the second back-to-back 30-win seasons. The Gauchos previously accomplished that feat in 2003 and 2004 when they went 34-22 and 32-31, respectively. UCSB also strung together an eight-game win streak that ran from late March to early April, its longest win streak since 2002.
Second Place, And That Ain't Bad...
Even more impressive than their overall record was the Gauchos' 13-8 Big West mark, the best conference record for the team since 2004 when they went 14-7. UCSB finished second in the competitive conference behind Long Beach State, which posted a 15-6 record to take the Big West crown. The Gauchos opened the conference schedule with a bang as they swept UC Riverside and then defending champ Cal Poly to get off to a 6-0 start. UCSB lost the next three Big West series before ending the season going 2-1 against Pacific and then Cal State Fullerton. The season-closing series win over the Titans marked the first for Santa Barbara since 2004. The second place finish was the program's best since tying Cal State Northridge for second in 2004.
The Wright Stuff
Junior center fielder Tiffany Wright had a breakout season that led her being named Big West Field Player of the Year and earning All-West Region accolades. The Corona, Calif. native was second on the team batting .350 across all 54 of the Gauchos' 2008 contests while leading the team with 40 runs, 15 doubles, and 113 total bases. She was second on the team with 40 RBI. It was in Big West games, however, that the outfielder truly shined. Wright led all players in conference games for batting (.487), slugging percentage (.947), runs scored (23), hits (37), RBI (26), doubles (8), home runs (9), total bases (72), and fielding percentage (1.000). As a junior, she is tied for the UCSB career home run record with 23 and she also set a new single season doubles record with her 15. She finished the season ranked amongst the nation's top-100 players for home runs per game (0.22), RBI per game (0.74), doubles per game (0.28), and slugging percentage (.638). Wright is the first-ever Big West Field Player of the Year out of UCSB and the first Gaucho field player to earn all-region accolades since 2004.
Rookie Of The Year
While the 2008 freshman class was a group of strong contributors to the Gauchos' success this past season, the real UCSB Rookie of the Year has to be head coach Brie Galicinao. In her first year at the reigns of the program, Galicinao earned Big West Co-Coach of the Year honors. In addition to leading the Gauchos to a 30-24 record and a second-place finish in the Big West, she also coached the best offense in the conference.
After relying heavily on pitching and one or two runs to win games during the 2007 season, the Gaucho offense exploded this spring and had arguably one of the best offensive seasons in program history. Santa Barbara set team records for single season batting average (.291), runs (243), hits (425), home runs (38), total bases (625), and RBI (216). The Gauchos also led the Big West in all of those categories as well as slugging percentage (.428) and on-base percentage (.357). Nationally, UCSB ranked in the top-50 for batting average, triples per game (0.22), and slugging percentage and ranked amongst the top-100 for scoring, home runs per game (0.7), and stolen bases per game (1.07). Not just a power offensively, the Gaucho defense led the conference with its .967 fielding percentage and ranked 57th nationally.
Senior Tisha Duran had a phenomenal year, which culminated in her second All-Big West First Team selection. The third baseman led the Gauchos with her .360 batting average, 13 home runs, and 55 RBI. In fact she set new school records for single season homers as well as RBI and is only the fifth player in Big West history to surpass 50 RBI in a season. The Ventura, Calif. native finished her career with UCSB ranking seventh for single season batting average, sixth for single season hits (58), fifth for single season runs (37), and sixth for single season doubles (12). In her two-year career with UCSB, she has posted the second-best career batting average (.343), is tied fourth for career RBI (88), tied ninth for career runs (70) and career doubles (23), and is eighth all-time for home runs (16). The infielder finished the year ranked 16th amongst Division I players for RBI per game (1.02), was 53rd for home runs per game (0.24), and 56th for slugging percentage (.689). She also ranks as the 79th toughest player to strikeout. Following the season, Duran was named the "Go-To Gaucho" at the year-end banquet. The award was given to Duran for being the team member who consistently found a way to perform, by way of grit and play, throughout the season.
Going Out With a Bang
Seniors Ericka Hansen and Nicole Churnock each had a breakout final season that resulted in All-Big West Honorable Mention accolades. Hansen, a catcher, batted a career-best .294 with a .327 average during conference games. She tallied 14 runs, six homers, 16 RBI, and posted a .518 on-base percentage. Churnock, an outfielder, had a career-best .301 average at the plate with 17 runs, eight doubles, 15 RBI, three stolen bases, and her first career home run in the season finale at Cal State Fullerton. The team co-captain was named a "Gaucho of Distinction" along with classmate Dani Baltazar. The two were awarded for their effort, energy, and enthusiasm, which made an invaluable contribution to the program.
And The Awards Go To...
Rounding out the Gauchos' list of All-Big West honorees are junior Christine Ramos, who was named to the first team for the third consecutive season, junior pitcher Tami Weston, and sophomore Jessica Ziegler. Ramos, who hit .339 on the year and led the Big West with 65 hits, was also named "Gaucho of the Year". The award was given to the person who contributed most to the team through her influence, play, commitment, and character; the player that represents Gaucho Softball in every way. Ziegler, the UCSB first baseman, earned Big West Honorable Mention accolades and also received the "Breakthrough of the Year" award, given to the Gaucho whose new contributions this season had an immediate impact on the team.
Three Gaucho softball players proved that they are not just stellar athletes, but that they have the ability to shine in the classroom as well. Ericka Hansen, Priscilla Perez, and Jessica Ziegler all were named to the Big West Academic All-Conference Team for maintaining a 3.2 cumulative grade point average, attaining a sophomore academic standing, and competing in at least 50 percent of their team's contests. Hansen was additionally named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District 8 Softball First Team and was the UCSB Athletics Department Golden Eagle award winner for softball after posting the highest GPA amongst the upperclassman on her team.
"This team has a lot to be proud of from this year," commented Galicinao. "Offense came around this season, defense was steady, and there are only more good things to look forward to next year with the returnee's' experience and the addition of newcomers. We have another competitive schedule in store and it will be exciting to see how much more this team will accomplish in 2009."