LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Playing in its first game in the LBSU-Louisville Slugger Invitational on Thursday, UCSB (13-8) used a strong start to take down Utah Valley (4-17) for its fourth straight win. Scoring in each of the first four innings, the Gauchos found themselves with a comfortable eight-run cushion, eventually winning 8-4.
Despite taking just a slim 9-8 advantage in the hit department, Santa Barbara was opportunistic from the very start when it had runners on base.
Facing two outs at the top of the first, sophomore right fielder Jessica Johnston was the first Gaucho to get on base with a single to left field. Freshman first baseman Sierra Altmeyer followed that up with a double to center field, sending Johnston from first to home and putting UCSB up 1-0.
Altmeyer finished the day 2-2 with two RBI and one run. She ranks second on the team with 18 RBI on the season.
While the Wolverines were kept without a hit until the bottom of the fourth, the Gauchos kept the runs coming.
In the second, after a Utah Valley error advanced junior Jacqueline Hinojosa to third base, a sacrifice fly by senior catcher Samantha Stark gave Hinojosa enough time to make it 2-0. Senior utility Jessica Tetzlaff capped the inning by making it 3-0 after a Kristen Clark single.
The lead was extended to 4-0 at the top of the third when Altmeyer made it two doubles in a row, bringing Johnston home from second. Altmeyer scored a run of her own later in the inning to make it 5-0.
Already holding a comfortable lead, the Gauchos took no chances scoring three more runs in the fourth to put the game away. Ironically, they did so without recording a single hit in the inning.
Freshman shortstop Melanie Menor got the scoring started after senior second baseman Arianna Palomares reached on a fielder's choice to make it 6-0. Then, facing two outs, three consecutive Gaucho batters were walked, giving two more runs to Clark and Palomares.
Utah Valley matched UCSB with three runs of its own in the fourth, but the deficit proved too large as the Gauchos earned their fourth straight win and seventh in their last eight outings.
Brucelas and Clark were an efficient 2-3 with one RBI each on the day, with the latter scoring her team-leading 18th run of the season.
Three UCSB pitchers spent time on the mound on Thursday, but it was Ashley Ludlow (4-2) who earned the win after giving up just one hit while striking out four batters in 1.2 innings pitched.
The Gauchos will look to extend their four game win streak when they play their final two games of the LBSU Louisville Slugger Invitational tomorrow against Iowa State at 9 a.m. and Mississippi State at 11:30 a.m.