SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – With a weekend high 16 hits, UCSB (8-7) ended the Gaucho Classic I on a high note with a 10-2 mercy-rule victory over Southern Utah (3-14).
The Gauchos only needed six innings to down the Thunderbirds, as Veronika Gulvin (2-4) pitched a complete game and allowed just two runs on five hits. The freshman also tied her season best of six strikeouts, matching her punch out total from the last time UCSB played Southern Utah (2/13/16).
As for the Gaucho offense, Jessica Johnston led the way with three runs and three RBIs after going a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate. Behind her was Jacqueline Hinojosa who came up with three hits along with a pair of runs and an RBI. Kristen Clark and Jessica Tetzlaff also had multi-hit outings, as the two also added one run and one RBI each.
UCSB set the tone early, as Gulvin mowed through the Thunderbirds' first three batters in the first inning with a strikeout and a pair of infield outs. After the quick half inning, the Gauchos immediately went to work and scored four runs in the bottom half.
Clark first led off with an infield single to the shortstop and was then followed up by Arianna Palomares's single up the middle. The two runners later advanced a base thanks to a wild pitch during Johnston's first at bat, which set the stage for UCSB's first scoring play of the game.
Later in the inning, the Gauchos had runners on first and second for Hinojosa who kept with the hitting trend by knocking an RBI single up the middle. That play spelt the end of Haley Wall's day in the circle, but the Gauchos would add one run more thanks to a fielding error, which allowed Emily Brucelas to score from third base.
The Thunderbirds later found the scoreboard in the second and fourth innings with a pair of doubles, which cut into the deficit at 4-2. However, that would be as close as the team would come to threatening UCSB's lead, as the Gauchos tallied three more runs in the bottom of the fourth.
After Samantha Stark hit a leadoff double to right center, Tetzlaff made her first plate appearance as a pinch hitter and came up with a sharply hit single to third base. The play put runners on the corners for Clark who came through with a base knock up the middle, scoring Stark. Johnston later collected her third RBI with a single, but she would not be there for long as Sierra Altmeyer sent her home with a double blasted to deep left center.
Holding a six run lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Gauchos clinched the victory in an unorthodox fashion. First, UCSB loaded the bases and brought in one run after Melanie Menor hit a fielder's choice to the shortstop. The play was made the third base, which left runners on first and second for Stark who would load the bases again after drawing a walk.
Now with two outs, Tetzlaff hit a fielder's choice to the shortstop who misfired her throw to second base and gave Hinojosa the green light to score and end the game with a mercy-rule.
The game was the team's second mercy-rule win over the Thunderbirds, as they previously topped them 10-1 (five innings) at the Arizona Hillenbrand Invitational.
The Gauchos will continue their season next weekend at UCLA's Stacey Winsberg Invitational where they will play Charleston Southern, CSU Bakersfield, and the Bruins.