Coming off of a 2008 season in which it posted an overall record of 30-24 and finished second in the Big West (13-8), the UCSB softball team has high expectations for their second season under 2008 Big West Co-Coach of the Year Brie Galicinao

In 2009, UCSB will face yet another tough schedule. One of the more daunting challenges will be a season-opening road swing that stretches from Feb. 6 to March 11 and includes 25 games. During this challenging road swing, the Gauchos will play in four tournaments and face seven teams that advanced to the 2008 NCAA Division I Regionals.

To open the season, UCSB will face Arizona — which finished the season ranked seventh nationally after advancing to the College World Series — and regional qualifier Oregon at the Kaijikawa Classic being hosted by Arizona State on Feb. 6-8. The following weekend, the Gauchos will travel to San Diego to compete in the Campbell/Cartier Classic on Feb. 12-15. UCSB will face NCAA qualifiers Stanford, Washington, Long Beach State and host San Diego State at the four-day event.

The Gauchos will round out the season-opening tournament circuit with appearances at the Cathedral City Classic and the UNLV Invite.

“It will be great to play teams from different regions,” Galicinao said. “To play top teams from other conferences provides us with good experience and it will also be good for our team’s and our conference’s RPI (ratings percentage index).”

After returning home for a three-game series against the University of San Diego — a team UCSB hasn’t faced since 2004 — the Gauchos go back on the road March 24 for a doubleheader at UCLA, which finished 2008 ranked fifth in the nation after qualifying for the College World Series.

UCSB opens up Big West Conference play at home on March 28 with a three-game series against UC Riverside, and on April 18 the Gauchos travel to play defending Big West champion Long Beach State in a three-game series that could have conference title implications.

“We definitely have a strong schedule and we are looking to start off with a bang,” Galicinao said. “After playing our fall scrimmages, I am even more excited to start the season.”

Although the schedule is tough, the Gauchos have the roster and the ability to rise to the occasion. After being named 2008 Big West Field Player of the Year and earning All-West Region accolades, senior Tiffany Wright returns to lead the Gauchos in 2009. Last season Wright, an outfielder, led the team with 40 runs, 15 doubles and 113 total bases, while tying the UCSB career home run record with 23.

Senior second basemen Christine Ramos also looks to make a large impact. In 2008, Ramos earned First Team All-Big West honors, led the conference with 65 hits and was named the team’s Gaucho of the Year. 

Senior Tami Weston, who earned All-Big West Honorable Mention accolades in 2008, will head the pitching staff, which includes juniors Lindsay Correa and MeLinda Matsumoto, as well as a pair of newcomers: freshmen Krista Cobb and Jenny Liepman.

Junior first basemen Jessica Ziegler returns to help Ramos lead the infield and will try to improve upon an impressive 2008 season in which she earned All-Big West Honorable Mention accolades.

The Gauchos will conclude their 2008 fall season scrimmage schedule with a home doubleheader against Cal State Monterey Bay on Nov. 8 at noon. On Nov. 9, UCSB will host its annual Alumnae Game at noon at Campus Diamond. The regular season will kick off on Feb. 6 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.

Tickets are now available for 2009 softball home contests. Single game tickets are on sale as well as a “Cinco Pack,” which includes tickets to any five games of your choosing. Tickets are available for all softball home contests at the Intercollegiate Athletics Ticket Office in the ICA Building on campus, by calling 805.893.UCSB or online (click here).

Lisa Skvarla is UCSB‘s assistant media relations director.