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Gauchos Finish in Second, Now Await Postseason Fate

Tiffany Wright ties the school's career home run record as UCSB chalks up its second consecutive 30-win season.

The UC Santa Barbara softball team used a season-high 17 hits to overcome Cal State Fullerton 11-7 during Saturday’s series and regular season finale. With the win, the Gauchos finish the regular season with a 30-24 record and a 13-8 Big West mark, good for second in conference.

The 30-win season marks just the fourth in UCSB history and the second consecutive for the Gauchos. They finished 2007 with a 30-23 overall mark.

The Gauchos managed three hits in the first two innings, but it was not until the top of the third that they got a run on the board. With one out, sophomore Jessica Ziegler singled before junior Tiffany Wright reached on a fielder’s choice and both batters advanced on a Titan error. Senior Tisha Duran followed with an RBI single to right field that sent Ziegler across home plate for the unearned run and put the Gauchos on the board, 1-0.

At the top of the fourth, Danielle Meyers and Priscilla Perez led off with back-to-back singles before Nicole Churnock singled to the pitcher, loading the bases. Christine Ramos followed with an RBI single to right field that sent Meyers home. The Titans earned the first out of the inning on a fly out, but Wright hit a grand slam over the left-field fence to stretch the UCSB lead to 6-0.

The homer was the 23rd of Wright’s career, which ties Tonya Dias’ school record, set in 2000. The home run was also the Gauchos’ 37th of the season, which sets a new program record for roundtrips in a season.

After Wright’s homer, the Gauchos added one more run to its total when Meyers drove Ericka Hansen home with an RBI single to right field, giving UCSB a 7-0 lead.

After retiring the next three batters in order, the Gauchos got back to work in the top of the fifth. Churnock and Ziegler each tallied base hits before Wright doubled, driving Churnock home. During the next at-bat, Duran hit a sac fly to center field, sending Ziegler home for the run and stretching the Gaucho advantage to 9-0.

Fullerton battled back in the bottom of the fifth, using six hits, including a pair of home runs from Katie Gollhardt and Lauren Lupinetti, to post seven runs, cutting the Gaucho lead to just two.

In the top of the sixth, the Gauchos looked to once again distance themselves from the Titans, and they did just that when Churnock hit a two-run homer over the left-field fence, the first of her four-year career, to stretch the UCSB advantage to 11-7.

The Titans got two runners on base in the bottom of the seventh, but UCSB was able to hold on for the victory and the first series win over Fullerton since 2004.

The Gauchos posted a season-high 17 hits in the game with Wright leading the way, going 3-for-5 with five RBIs, a double and a home run. Churnock also tallied three hits in four at-bats with three runs, a homer and two RBIs.

Tami Weston picked up the win and improved to 11-6 on the season after tossing 4.2 innings and allowing seven runs on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Lindsey Correa finished the game and allowed just one hit in 2.1 innings.

For the Titans, Christine Hiner (14-13) took the loss after tossing five innings and allowing nine runs, eight earned, on 16 hits with one walk and a strikeout.

With Long Beach State having tied up the conference championship on Friday evening, and with it the Big West’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, the Gauchos will have to wait until Sunday to see if they made it into postseason play. The 2008 NCAA Division I Softball Selection Show will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU. After the show, ESPNNews will televise a DI Softball update that will include the bracket announcement.

Lisa Skvarla is UCSBs assistant media relations director.

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