Gauchos to Face Three Top-25 Teams this Weekend

Jacqueline Hinojosa (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Jacqueline Hinojosa (Photo by Tony Mastres)

The Schedule
Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 at 12:30 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Binghampton
All-time record vs. Bearcats: First Game

Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 at 3:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 11 Washington
All-time record vs. Huskies: 0-6
Last time: L, 9-0 (5 innings) (2/18/12)

Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 25 Texas A&M
All-time record vs. Aggies: 1-4
Last time: L, 7-0 (2/21/15)

Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at 3:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 4 LSU
All-time record vs. Lady Tigers: 0-1
Last time: L, 6-1 (2/25/06)

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Bethune-Cookman
All-time record vs. Wildcats: First Game

Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic Preview
The Gauchos will be making their way down to Cathedral City, Calif. this weekend to play some of the top teams in the nation. Among the five teams UCSB is scheduled to play, three of those teams are ranked: No. 4 LSU, No. 11 Washington, and No. 25 Texas A&M. The Lady Tigers are led by Sahvanna Jaquish who currently is eighth in the nation with a .692 batting average, while the Huskies are the sixth-best hitting team in the NCAA with a .413 team batting average. After receiving votes in the preseason poll, the Aggies jumped into the national rankings thanks to a 5-1 season opening weekend when they split their two games with No. 7 UCLA. Every game of the tournament will be livestraeamed on FloSoftball.com.

Last Week
The Gauchos opened the new season by going 2-3 at the Arizona Hillenbrand Invitational. Despite the losing the record, UCSB's offense was impressive throughout the weekend. On the first day, the Gauchos lost a pair of one-run losses after scoring a combined 25 runs. The team eventually found the win column on day two with a dominant 10-1, mercy-rule victory over Southern Utah and a 6-3 win over North Texas. Even in their 11-6 loss to No. 13 Arizona, the Gauchos held the distinction of being the only team that weekend to play the Wildcats to a full seven-inning finish and to score more than two runs against them.

Fantastic Freshman
Leading UCSB's offensive charge last week was freshman Sierra Altmeyer who was honored as the Big West West Field Player of the Week. The first baseman finished the weekend with outstanding figures of a .647 batting average and a 1.176 slugging percentage. Her batting average is tied for 15th in the NCAA, while her slugging percentage is tied for 23rd. She held team-highs of 11 hits, nine RBIs, two home runs, and three doubles. She was also second on the roster with both a .714 on-base percentage and five runs. With the award, Altmeyer became the first Gaucho freshman to receive a conference weekly accolade since her teammate Kristen Clark in March 2014. Also, she now joins Jennifer Davis (2004-07) and Kendra Wood (1997-00) as the only three freshmen in program history to earn a weekly award in their first week as a Gaucho.

What's New?
Including Altmeyer -- who started each game last week at first base -- four freshmen made their UCSB debuts last weekend. Joining Altmeyer in the infield was Melanie Menor who started all five games at shortstop. She completed her weekend with four RBIs, second-most on the team. In the circle, Veronika Gulvin was given two starts and appeared in all five games, while fellow first-year pitchers Claudia Puente, and Ashley Wright also made appearances. Altogether, the young trio tossed a combined 24.1 innings of the total 34 played by the Gauchos. 

Gaucho Bombers
The Gauchos completed their opening weekend with an absurd total of nine home runs from a combined seven players. The team easily leads the Big West, as the next closest teams are CSUN and Hawai'i who each have hit three so far this year. As a team, the Gauchos are slugging .638, which again is far and away the league's top mark, as defending Big West Champion Cal State Fullerton is second with its .467 figure.

Hits by Stacy
Stacy Cavazos had a strong opening weekend when she hit for .412 and slugged for .824. After struggling as a sophomore with a .177 batting average and four total extra base hits, the center fielder erupted with a double and two timely home runs. Her first homer delivered UCSB's first runs of the season, three to be exact, in the team's 10-9 loss to Purdue. Along with that three-run shot, Cavazos registered seven RBIs, ranking second on the team.

Palomares Power
After being one of the most prolific doubles hitters in the Big West last year, Arianna Palomares picked up right where she left off and paced the Gauchos with three doubles this past weekend. She completed the weekend with seven hits overall and also clubbed a home run in UCSB's 17-16 slugfest with Nebraska-Omaha.

Presason All-Big West Team
In January, College SportsMadness released its Preseason All-Big West team, which featured six Gauchos. Kristen Clark and MeShalon Moore were voted to the first team, while Jacqueline Hinojosa, Ashley Ludlow, and Arianna Palomares earned second team honors. It is Clark's second time being named a first teamer in the publication's preseason poll, while her teammates all made their debuts on this year's list. 

Preseason Poll
The Gauchos were selected to finish seventh in the Big West Coaches Preseason Poll. Long Beach State -- who edged out UCSB for the conference crown in 2014 -- was selected first with 62 points, including six of the possible eight first place votes. Cal State Fullerton (52) and Hawai'i (46) were voted to finish in second and third, respectively. As for the reigning champion Cal State Northridge, it was selected to finish in fourth after receiving 40 points.