TUCSON, Ariz. – Despite scoring a combined 25 runs in two games, UCSB opened its season a pair of tight loses on Friday at the Arizona Hillenbrand Invitational. First the Gauchos dropped a narrow 10-9 decision to Purdue and later came up short in a 17-16 extra inning battle with Nebraska-Omaha.
Freshman Sierra Altmeyer had a fantastic debut day in a Gaucho uniform, as she led the team with six hits and seven RBIs. She accounted for two of UCSB's seven home runs, while going 6-9 at the plate overall.
Sierra Altmeyer's two home runs were not enough for the Gauchos to top Purdue, as UCSB fell 10-9 in its season opener.
Making her collegiate debut, Altmeyer led the Gauchos with three hits (two homeruns, double), three runs and four RBIs. Stacy Cavazos supplied UCSB's first big shot of the game with a three-run blast in the second. Emily Brucelas (2-4) and Jacqueline Hinojosa (2-3) also had multi-hit efforts, as they added to the Gauchos' 11 combined hits.
Along with Altmeyer making the start at first base, two other UCSB freshmen made their debuts in blue and gold with Melanie Menor handling shortstop duties and Veronkia Gulvin pitching in a relief role to starter Ashley Ludlow.
Gulvin was credited with the loss after giving up five runs off seven hits through 4 and 1/3 innings. Ludlow, who tossed the first 2 and 2/3 innings, gave up five runs on five hits, while recording three strikeouts.
Having already blown out Southern Utah 8-1 earlier that day, the Boilermakers got to work early against the Gauchos in scoring the game's opening run in the top of the first.
UCSB had its response in the following inning with Cavazos's three-run bomb with two outs. Brucelas opened the inning with a lead off single to right, while Hinojosa moved her to second after singling to third base. This set the table for Cavazos who delivered her lone hit of the game in a big way, delivering a homer down the left field line to give the Gauchos a 3-1 lead.
But Purdue bounced back in the top of the fourth with three straight scoring at-bats, including back-to-back home runs. After giving up those four runs, Ludlow was replaced in the circle with Gulvin who forced Maya Hughes into a groundout to end the inning.
The see-saw battle continued with the Gauchos' two-run third inning. First Altmeyer belted a double to left field, sending Arianna Palomares across home plate. That was followed by Hinojosa's RBI single three at-bats later, as she delivered the game-tying hit to center field.
However, the tie would not last long with the Boilermakers scoring four unanswered runs to take a 9-5 lead. Altmeyer, though, kept the Gauchos in the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth. In that same inning, Samantha Lujan came up big in a pinch hitter role, as she singled through the left side to send Brucelas home, putting UCSB within one.
Purdue had a chance to extend their lead in the sixth, but Cavazos threw out Kristen Hoppman at the plate from the center field for the third out of the inning.
In the bottom half of the frame, Altmeyer stepped up again a blasted a solo shot to center field and tied the game heading into the seventh.
The Boilermakers, however, were able to score the game-winning run after Maya Hughes doubled down the left field line. They then put a fresh arm in Sydney Pencek into the game to record the save, as she faced four Gaucho batters and allowed just one single.
The Gauchos came up on the short end of a nine-inning shootout against Nebraska-Omaha, as the Mavericks pulled away with the 17-16 win.
UCSB's offense provided plenty of fireworks with four homeruns through 17 total hits and 16 RBIs. Again, Sierra Altmeyer produced well for the Gauchos at the plate with her 3-5 performance, delivering three RBIs. Arianna Palomares also finished with three hits, including a home run and a double, as she added four runs and four RBIs to the Gaucho effort.
Batting in the third spot, Jessica Johnston went 2-4 and brought in four RBIs along with scoring three runs herself.
After being held hitless in the Purdue game, Kristen Clark bounced back nicely with a pair of hits, including a solo home run to lead off the game. It was Clark's second career inside the park homer, as she recorded her first one during her record breaking freshman year.
Going through a marathon of a game, the Gauchos looked to four different pitchers against Nebraska-Omaha. Claudia Puente made her collegiate debut in the contest and tossed the lion's share of innings for UCSB with 4 and 2/3 innings and also picked up three strikeouts. Lena Mayer started in the circle for UCSB and fanned a game-high four batters, while allowing five earned runs (six total) from five hits.
The Gauchos hit the ground running as the designated home team in scoring three runs in the first inning. Clark led off with a homer belted down the left field line and Palomares followed her up with a double to left field. The extra-base knocks were contagious, as Johnston roped a triple to center field to send Palomares home. Finally, Altmeyer poked an RBI single up the middle to give UCSB an early 3-0 lead.
Nebraska-Omaha woke its bats up in the second and third innings, scoring six unanswered runs including five in the third.
Now facing a 6-3 deficit, Palomares supplied the equalizer on a three-run blast in a two-out at-bat. An inning later, Samantha Lujan also came up with a home run, this time giving the Gauchos the lead at 7-6.
And while the Mavericks took the lead right back with a two-run top of the sixth, the Gauchos were quick to respond with three more runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Altmeyer hit a double two-RBI double to right center for the first pair of scores, while Lujan singled down the right field line to put UCSB ahead 10-8.
Holding on to the two-run lead entering the final inning of regulation, the Gauchos lost their edge and allowed five runs to Nebraska-Omaha.
Undeterred, the Gauchos came back to force extra innings thanks to a clutch three-run homer from Johnston. After a key hit-by-pitch sent Palomares to first, Johnston took her at-bat as the potential game-tying run with UCSB down to its final out.
In the eighth inning, both teams traded off two-run efforts, as it was Nebraska-Omaha's two-run homer in the ninth that ended up being the deciding factor.
Trailing by two runs entering the bottom of the ninth, Palomares hit an RBI single through the right side to put the Gauchos within one. However, the team hit into three straight outs to end the game, which sealed the decision for the Mavericks.
The Gauchos will be back in action tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. to play Southern Utah and will later play North Texas at 10 a.m.