Softball Season Preview Part I: The Journey Ahead

Jan. 30, 2009

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Today we begin a four-part preview of the 2009 UC Santa Barbara Softball season with an outlook on the schedule and the goals and expectations of the coaching staff and players for the season ahead.

The Gauchos open the 2009 season with a stretch of 25 road or neutral site contests beginning on Feb. 6 and ending on Mar. 24. During that span, UCSB will play in four tournaments, facing seven teams that advanced to the 2008 NCAA Division I Regionals.

"I think that is going to be the biggest challenge," head coach Brie Galicinao said of the season-opening road stretch. "Before our first game at home, our season is going to be half over. It's not so much that we are playing away; it is that we are playing six games (apiece) in the first three tournaments. In the first three weeks we will have played 18 games."

In those 18 contests, the Gauchos will play eight teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in the preseason polls released by USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball, including five encounters with Pac-10 teams.

"When we scheduled these tournaments, we expected that we would be playing top teams," said Galicinao. "It will be a good test for us to see where we are as a team very quickly. We should be able to figure out what type of team we are within the first couple of weeks. How that all plays out win-loss wise, obviously we want to come out with a bunch of wins. But even last year at the first UCLA tournament (UCLA/Cal State Fullerton Freeway Series) we came out 1-2, but that was the first time we got to see that we would be an offensive team. That tournament we saw that our team could hit really good pitching and score on really good teams. I think the first few tournaments this season are going to serve the same purpose allowing us to see what our strengths are as a team so we will be ready for conference."

Following the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., the Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego, Calif., and the Cathedral City Classic, the Gauchos will play a three-game series against Cal State Bakersfield on Feb. 28 and Mar. 1. They will then hit the road for Sin City where they will play in the two-day UNLV Invitational on Mar. 6-7, rounding out their road swing.

Santa Barbara will finally hit its new and improved home field (a new fence has been erected and the field is going to be resurfaced) on Mar. 11 for a doubleheader against non-conference opponent San Diego. Following a short break for finals, UCSB will visit UCLA for a spring break doubleheader on Mar. 24. The Bruins enter the season with a No. 4 national ranking.

On Mar. 25, UCSB will host Santa Clara in a doubleheader. Three days later, the Gauchos will kick-off the Big West season with a three-game series against UC Riverside.

"By the time we start conference, we should have it all figured out and be able to use our strengths as a team to become a team to beat," Galicinao predicted. "I know all the conference teams are a year older too and the conference in general has brought in a lot of freshman talent and transfer talent. So, the Big West in general is going to look a lot different. Though some teams struggled last year, there is no reason to take any of the teams in conference lightly."

In addition to the conference series against UC Riverside (Mar. 28-29), UCSB will also host Cal State Northridge (May 10-11), UC Davis (May 2-3) and Cal State Fullerton (May 8-9) at Campus Diamond. The Gauchos will visit Cal Poly (Apr. 4-5), defending Big West champs Long Beach State (Apr. 18-19) and Pacific (Apr. 25-26) with a trip to non-conference Fresno State thrown in on April 6.

Last season, the Gauchos finished the Big West season with a 13-8 mark, the best conference record for the program since 2004, when they went 14-7. UCSB finished second in the league standings behind Long Beach State, but were not selected to make a repeat trip to the NCAA Regionals as an at-large team.

"Look for us in the top," Galicinao said. "We didn't make it to regionals last year, but if our team does everything they are capable of once the season starts, we will definitely be in the top."

In the Big West preseason poll released in January, UCSB was tied with Cal Poly in third place while Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton were picked to finish one-two. Galicinao and her Gauchos, however, have no intention of finishing where the conference expects them.

"The team came up with their mission for '09 and winning conference was definitely part of the process of accomplishing that mission. A Big West Championship is not the end-all be-all for this program; it is the step to get to where we want to be.

"We realistically have the talent and the tools to compete against all of these teams (on the schedule), no matter who it is," she continued. "None of our opponents should take our team lightly because we have the capability to put up a lot of runs and I know our pitching was unknown last year. This year it might be considered more of the same, but with what we have seen in the fall and even right now, we will have more than one person step in. I think they, collectively as a pitching staff, are going to be able to hold some of the best offenses in the nation. I think anybody who is going to our games, they will be able to see a good game."

The Gaucho season gets underway on Feb. 6 when UCSB heads to the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Santa Barbara will face Oregon, Wichita State, Mcneese State, Wagner, Penn State and No. 7 Arizona during the three-day tournament.

For a chance to catch all of the Gauchos' games at Campus Diamond this season, the UCSB Athletics Department is, for the first-time, offering season tickets. Ticket prices are $50 for adults, $40 seniors (55 and over) and $24 youth (13 and under) and include all 16 home contests. With the purchase of a season ticket, you will also receive a free UCSB visor. To purchase tickets, click here.

The 2009 UCSB softball season preview will continue on Saturday with a look at the Gaucho outfield.

UCSB - a nationally recognized university in both academic and athletic excellence - is located on the central coast of California in a picturesque campus and community setting on the Pacific Ocean. Each year over 450 Division 1 Gaucho student-athletes compete for national championships, succeed in the classroom, and give back to the community.

- UCSBgauchos.com -

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