LONG BEACH, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara split its doubleheader at Long Beach State on Friday setting them up to win its first conference series of the year if it could best LBSU on Saturday.
The Gauchos (8-34 overall, 2-9 Big West) took the opening game 6-2 before being beaten in game two, 6-1. With the split, LBSU is now 18-22 overall and 5-6 in conference play.
A terrific performance from junior pitcher Felisha Noriega really set the stage for the Gauchos to steal the show. The righty pitched 4.2 innings allowing just two hits and no runs. She did walk five batters but also contributed three punchouts. She earned the win bumping her up to 6-14 on the year as a starter.
Noriega also benefitted from a terrific first inning at the plate from her teammates. In the top half of the first, a pair of hits put the Gauchos in a scoring opportunity with runners on second and third with two outs. Rayna Cohen came up to the plate and took a walk, loading the bases.
From there, LBSU's pitcher proceeded to walk the next three UCSB batters scoring three runs for the Gauchos. Genesis Ramirez, Melanie Menor, and Tyler Goldstein each earned an RBI for their patience at the plate. Menor flew out to left field in the third to score another run bringing UCSB's lead to 4-0.
In the sixth, Devan Sperry added to Santa Barbara's lead with an RBI single. Another RBI single from Maci Fines in the top of the seventh proved to be too much for LBSU to overcome. Down 6-1, LBSU would add one run in the bottom of the seventh but it would not be enough, giving UCSB its second conference win of the season.
In total, UCSB racked up 10 hits with three players earning multiple hits.
Unfortunately for the Gauchos, the momentum they had after their first win could not be carried onto their second game of the day. Five different Gauchos earned hits in the game, but that would be good enough to only muster a single run.
LBSU opened up game two with a home run to left field to take the early 1-0 lead. For the most part, Veronika Gulvin really kept UCSB in the game for the majority of it. An RBI single in the third and a sac fly in the fifth gave LBSU a 3-0 lead. Gulvin ended the day pitching 4.1 innings allowing five hits and three runs. She was credited with the loss dropping her to 1-10 on the season.
Down 3-1, the Gauchos still had a chance to make a game of it, but a pair of LBSU home runs in the top half of the sixth proved to be too much to overcome as it extended LBSU's lead to 6-1.
UCSB will look to win its first conference series of the season when it takes on Long Beach State at 3 p.m. on Saturday to conclude the three-game series.