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Gauchos Are Seventh in Coaches’ Big West Preseason Poll

UCSB returns three all-conference selections, prepares to open season next month.

UCSB’s softball team has been picked to finish seventh in the Big West Conference, according to the league’s preseason coaches’ poll released Tuesday. Defending Big West champion Cal Poly garnered the top spot in the poll, beating out Cal State Fullerton by just one point.

Cal Poly earned 56 points and two first-place votes to beat out Fullerton, which garnered 55 points and three first-place predictions. Long Beach State finished with 52 points and two first-place votes. Pacific claimed the fourth spot with 33 points, while Cal State Northridge was right behind with 32 points and the remaining first-place vote. First-year Big West member UC Davis was picked to finish sixth with 28 points, while UCSB (20) and UC Riverside (12) rounded out the poll.

The Gauchos, who are under the direction of first year head coach Brie Galicinao, return three All-Big West selections from the 2006-07 squad. All-Big West first-team pick Christine Ramos, who led UCSB with her .359 batting average and her school record-setting 66 hits last season, returns for her junior campaign.

First-team All-Big West pick Tisha Duran also returns after a breakout junior season. Duran, from Ventura’s Buena High and Ventura City College, batted .327 last year, tying Ramos with a team-leading 33 runs and led the squad in doubles (11) and RBIs (33). Tiffany Wright rounds out the trio of returning all-conference honorees. After hitting .268 with 44 hits, nine doubles and 27 RBIs, the outfielder earned an All-Big West honorable mention in 2007.

The Gauchos other starters this season include outfielder Nicole Churnock and catcher Ericka Hansen. Pitchers Lindsey Correa, MeLinda Matsumoto, and Tami Weston, a junior from Ventura High, will look to fill the void left by 2007 Big West Pitcher of the Year Jennifer Davis, the conference and Gauchos’ all-time leading strikeout queen.

Last season, UCSB earned its third NCAA Tournament bid in four years after going 30-23 overall and 7-11 in the Big West. The 30-win campaign was the third in five seasons for UCSB. Despite its strong overall season records, UCSB has had only one winning season in conference play in the last four years.

The Gauchos open the 2008 season Feb. 8, playing in the UCLA/Cal State Fullerton Freeway Series. UCSB will play Nevada, Oklahoma, Santa Clara and UCLA at the tournament.

Lisa Skvarla is UCSB‘s assistant media relations director.

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