Feb. 9, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Today we conclude the three-part preview of the 2010 UC Santa Barbara softball season with a look at the bullpen and the Gaucho offense.
This season UCSB has the benefit of returning four pitchers that have eight years of collegiate experience and 107 combined starts under their belts. The Gaucho staff includes seniors MeLinda Matsumoto and Lindsey Correa and sophomores Krista Cobb and Jenny Liepman.
As with the rest of the team, head coach Brie Galicinao is expecting to see the hard work that the pitchers put in during the offseason pay off on the field.
"The new lifting program has really seen some great results especially for the pitchers that rely on great velocity," Galicinao said. "The speed and the general athleticism of our pitching staff has improved, which has made it a lot easier for them to make adjustments to their different pitches.
"It's nice for them to have different options so that they have more than just a couple go-to pitches. Our preseason has been about figuring out what is going to work for them as a pitcher and fine-tuning that."
Matsumoto enters her senior year with the most experience of the four pitchers. In her previous three years in the blue and gold, she has played in 77 games - starting 46 - and has recorded a combined 3.42 ERA. In addition to her 22 starts in 2009, she made 11 relief appearances for the Gauchos, which ranked sixth in the Big West.
The other senior in the circle is Correa, who has made 36 starts in the past three seasons. She has posted a 19-9 career record at UCSB and a 3.57 ERA, with a career-low 2.61 ERA last year. Her 0.94 ERA in 2009 Big West play led the conference.
"The benefit of having a pitching staff with two seniors is that they have a sense of immediacy about them," Galicinao said. "With the other half of the staff being sophomores, there is an added benefit of them now understanding what it takes and subsequently they are more prepared."
The first of those two sophomores is Cobb, who parlayed an outstanding rookie season into Big West Co-Pitcher of the Year and All-Pacific Region First Team accolades. Cobb started 23 games and made 33 appearances in 2009. She posted an 18-9 record and led the team with her 1.93 ERA. Half of Cobb's wins were shutouts, including a perfect game in her first collegiate start against Wagner (Feb. 8) - the first in program history.
Also returning for her second season with the Gauchos is Liepman, who made nine appearances and two starts in 2009. She recorded a 3.16 ERA and struck out six in 24.1 innings of play.
"(The starter) will come down to who has the eye on the prize and whatever we need to do to win," Galicinao said. "Whoever is going to best help the team against that day's given opponent will get the ball."
The Gauchos wont just be experienced in the circle, but also behind the plate with both of last season's catchers returning.
Lainey DePompa will join the Gauchos for her sophomore campaign. In 2009, she started 46 games and posted a .991 fielding percentage and led the Big West with seven runners picked off. Offensively, she tallied seven runs and seven RBI and was second on the squad with 13 walks.
"Athletes have the choice when they go home over break to really make some changes and it was really exciting to see what she chose to take on. Lainey has really been a model of what can happen if you go home and do big work and continue that throughout the year," Galicinao said. "She has shown great growth since last year so it will be exciting to see what she can do behind the plate this year."
Kelsey Anderson, who Galicinao praises as a "talented hitter with a consistent arm," is in her final season with the Gauchos and will provide depth behind the plate. Anderson played in 16 games in 2009 and posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
UCSB lost two of its most valuable bats from the 2009 season due to graduation: 2008 Big West Field Player of the Year, Tiffany Wright, and 2009 Big West Field Player of the Year, Christine Ramos. While Galicinao is not sure which players will take over as the team's offensive stars in 2010, she is definitely not worried about a slump in the Gauchos' offensive output.
"We have a lot of options depending upon what the lineup is; we could have a team with a lot of speed and be able to string runs together with our short game and trying to get on consistently," said Galicinao. "We also could have a lineup of a lot more power or, we could take the path of the combination."
With all the bases covered on the defensive end, rounding out the Gaucho offensive lineup will be their designated hitter. Katie McWhirter and Allison Taylor could fill in as the designated player if their services are not needed in the outfield and freshman Kelly McDonald is also competing for a spot in the batting order.
McDonald, who was a four-time All-Western Catholic Athletic League selection at Notre Dame High School and the 2008 WCAL Player of the Year, could also compete in the infield after she fully recovers from an arm injury.
"It is just going to come down to who is the most effective," Galicinao said. "We have a good combo of speed and power so, it's nice to know that we can win on a long ball just as easily we can win on a slap hit, a stolen base and running in on a ground ball. Regardless of who we are playing, we know that have options and there is always going to be a way to win offensively."
If you would like to catch the Gauchos in action, tickets are now available for all of the UCSB home contests. The Gauchos are scheduled to play 21 games at home, including the four-day Gaucho Classic being held Feb. 25-28. For more information or to purchase tickets for Gaucho softball, click here.
UCSB will open the 2010 season this Thursday at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah. The Gauchos will open tournament action against Northern Colorado. UCSB will then open at home on Wednesday, February 17 with a doubleheader against UCLA at noon.
To read part one of this preview, focusing on the Gaucho infield, click here.
To read part two of this preview, focusing on the Gaucho outfield, click here.