Santa Barbara, Calif. - After a rough start to their day, the Tigers rebounded to earn the split at UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, April 21. The Tigers dropped a 2-1 (8 inn.) decision to the Gauchos to start their day before grabbing the second game 6-2. The split kept the Tigers in the lead in the Big West at 8-3 in conference play while the Gauchos stayed a game back of Pacific at 7-4 in the Big West.
In a pitchers' duel between junior Nikki Armagost and the Gauchos' ace and reigning pitcher of the week, Shelby Wisdom, Armagost found herself on the short-end of the stick as the ball bounced UC Santa Barbara's way over the eight innings of action. Despite outhitting the Gauchos in the contest 7-4, it was UCSB that came up with the timely hits in the game to earn the one-run victory.
For the Tigers, the game came down to the last strike of regular play as Pacific mounted a rally in the 7th in attempt to steal the victory. With a 3-2 count, and runners at first and second, senior Alexa Rivera delivered the big hit for the Tigers in their final at bat, singling home the game-tying run to knot the contest at 1-1. However, Pacific would strand a runner at third to end the inning, a mistake that would bite Pacific two innings later.
Still tied at 1-1, the Gauchos took advantage of a one-out walk to the bottom of the order to do the final damage to the Tigers as Kathryn Pilpil doubled home the game-winning run with two outs to send Pacific to defeat. The loss snapped a six-game conference winning streak for the Tigers, but the momentum of the comeback proved to pay dividends in the second game of the day.
Overall in the contest, the Tigers had their chances against Wisdom as Pacific posted seven hits and and left eight on base, including five in scoring position. Additionally, the Tigers saw their first run of the game robbed from them in the second inning when senior Nicole Matson sent a high fly ball towards the right-center field wall only to see it snatched over the fence by the Gauchos' center fielder.
In all, Armagost gave up just four hits in the game, two in the fourth when the Gauchos pushed across their first run of the game and one in both the second and the eighth. The junior fell to 9-6 on the year as she went 7.2 innings while striking out five and walking two. Her counterpart, Wisdom, threw all eight innings for the Gauchos while giving up the single run in the seventh. She struck out four and walked two to earn the win.
With game one behind them, the Tigers looked to even the series in the second game of the day behind sophomore Tori Shepard. While the Tigers would eventually use the momentum of the near comeback late in game two, the Gauchos used the extra-inning victory to spur early offense against Shepard in the first. After hitting the second batter of the game, Shepard would find herself in an early two-run hole when Keilani Jennings lifted a 2-2 pitch over the right field fence for a two-run home run. The home run was the first hit of the game for the Gauchos and would prove to be their last until six innings later. For the next five innings, Shepard allowed just one base runner on a two-out walk in the fourth to keep the Tigers well within striking distance.
Down two runs after one inning, Pacific's offense found its groove as they faced Wisdom for the second time in the day. In the second, the Tigers pushed across a single run to cut the deficit in half when 6-7-8 in the lineup strung together three-straight hits. After sophomore Taylor Petty, the reigning player of the week in the Big West, doubled to begin the run, junior Amy Moore moved the sophomore to third before sophomore Megan Foglesong drove her home for the first run of the afternoon.
Two innings later, the Tigers struck again as Petty began the scoring run once again, this time with an infield single. After Moore bunted Petty to second, Foglesong singled Petty to third setting up junior Megan Allen to bring home the run. With Petty 60 feet from paydirt, Allen dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt, a bunt so good it went down as a single for the junior third baseman as Petty scored with ease to tie the game at 2-2.
Back to even, Pacific would take its first lead of the day in the top of the fifth when Petty made the Gauchos pay for walking a pair of Tigers in front of her. After sophomore Kelsey Rodriguez worked a leadoff walk and Matson was intentionally walked two batters later, Petty drove a 1-1 pitch to the wall in left, just missing a three-run home run but plating what would become the game-winning run for the Tigers.
In the seventh, the Tigers added some insurance to their lead for Shepard as Matson and Petty each singled with one-out in the inning before Foglesong drove the duo home with double to left-center. She would come home on the play as well as an errant throw to third gave Pacific a 6-2 lead. Foglesong finished her day 4-for-6 over the two games while Petty ended 5-for-7 to lead the Tigers.
The four run lead would be more than enough for Shepard to finish the game as the sophomore got out of the final inning of action with strong pitching and some help from her defense to earn the win. In the inning, the Gauchos threatened with back-to-back hits, including a double that put runners in scoring position before the defense ended UCSB's hopes of a comeback. In particular, the Tigers picked up the second out of the inning when Moore threw behind the runner at second to force teh Gauchos into a run down that resulted in an out at the plate. A line drive to Allen at third ended the contest as the Tigers were finished with their 6-2 victory.
Shepard finished her afternoon with just three hits and two runs given up in seven full innings to improve to 11-4 on the year. She struck out three and walked two (one on a hit by pitch) to take down Wisdom for the first time in seven games. Wisdom, who was riding a six-game winning streak, threw all seven innings for the Gauchos while giving up 12 hits and six runs to fall to 16-13 on the year.
Pacific will look for the series victory on Sunday, April 22, as they two teams meet in the rubber game of the three-game series. The game is scheduled for 12:00 pm.