CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – Despite leading by two runs in both games, UCSB (3-7) dropped its opening games of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic 8-3 to No. 15 Tennessee (12-0) and 4-3 to Oklahoma State (7-5). It was the Gauchos' first two losses of the season when scoring first.
First baseman Alyssa Diaz led the way with four hits and three RBIs for the day. The freshman now has a team-leading eight RBIs on the season, while no other Gaucho has surpassed four.
No. 15 Tennessee
Facing their first ranked opponent in the No. 15 ranked Volunteers late Thursday, the Gauchos took a lead in the first inning for the fourth consecutive game. After junior outfielder Jessica Johnston reached first base on a bunt, Diaz notched her first career home run to make it 2-0.
The early advantage wouldn't last long though, as Tennessee's Meghan Gregg soon fired back with a solo home run of her own in the bottom of the first to tie it up at 2-2.
Following a scoreless second inning, Diaz made it two-for-two at the plate, smashing another home run – this time a solo - to right center. Her third RBI of the game eventually proved to be the last one for UCSB, which went ice cold with just one hit over the final four and a half innings.
Just as they had done in first inning, the Volunteers quickly answered to tie it at 3-3 at the bottom of the third. Tennessee would go on to take a 5-3 lead in the fourth before extending its advantage to 8-3 with three more runs in the sixth.
Freshman pitcher Felisha Noriega remained on the mound for all six innings on defense, the most she has played this season. She finished with six strikeouts – five more than she had through the first nine games.
Diaz ended the game tied for game-high honors with two hits. She has now recorded at least one hit in five straight games, the longest current streak on the team. Her two runs gave her eight for the year, tying Johnston for the team-high, while also extending a team-leading streak of four games with at least one run.
UCSB got off to another quick start in its first game against Oklahoma State, taking a 2-0 lead through one inning. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, they were unable to maintain that early success, as they scored just one run over the following six innings on the way to a 4-3 defeat.
Prior to Thursday, UCSB had been a perfect 3-0 in games where it scored the first run and games where it scored in the first inning. The loss also ended the Gauchos' two-game winning streak.
Just as Diaz would do later in the game against Tennessee, Johnston got things started with an early home run to right field, making it 1-0. It was UCSB's fourth homer and Johnston's second of the young season, which is now tied with Diaz for most on the team.
The Gauchos went on to outhit Oklahoma State 7-6, but a scoring drought which lasted a little over four innings saw their lead dwindle until the Cowgirls took a 4-3 lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Needing a run to extend the game, UCSB was unable to get anyone on base in the top of the seventh with its first three batters going 0-3. The four Oklahoma State runs were the second-fewest the Gauchos have given up this season. It was also their first loss in games decided by three runs or less.
Santa Barbara will be back in action for one game tomorrow when it faces Purdue at 12:30 p.m.