SAN LUIS OBISPO – Sophomore right fielder Courtney Tyler's (right) third-inning grand slam stood as the difference as the Cal Poly softball team opened a Friday doubleheader and a three-game series versus Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara by claiming its first Big West Conference victory of 2015 with a 5-3 triumph at Bob Janssen Field. Despite scoring three times in the bottom of the seventh in game No. 2, Cal Poly fell in the nightcap 4-3 and settled for a Friday split.
During Friday's opening-game victory, Cal Poly (18-21, 1-4) fell behind briefly in the top of the third inning as a two-out single up the middle from Gaucho right fielder Jackie Hinojosa scored shortstop Emily Brucelas.
Cal Poly, however, quickly responded in the bottom half of the inning as freshman shortstop Alejandra Garcia, senior left fielder Emily Ceccacci and freshman center fielder Amanda Sandoval strung together one-out singles. Tyler then belted the next pitch from UC Santa Barbara starting righthander Alex Pingree (7-6) over the left field fence to provide Cal Poly a 4-1 advantage.
After conceding UC Santa Barbara's opening run, Mustang starting righthander Sierra Hyland (13-13) – who struck out three Gauchos against one walk – retired eight of the ensuing 10 hitters she faced.
Cal Poly, meanwhile, increased its lead to 5-1 in the sixth as freshman third baseman Stephanie Heyward scored through a two-out wild pitch unfurled by Gauchos righthanded reliever Lena Mayer.
UC Santa Barbara (15-23, 2-3), which saw six Gaucho baserunners stranded by Hyland, finalized the scoring in the seventh with left fielder Kristen Clark producing a run-scoring single ahead of Hinojosa, who grounded out to plate Brucelas for the 5-3 loss.
During Friday's second game, UC Santa Barbara once again grabbed the early lead as the Gauchos loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the second inning. After designated player Shelby Wisdom scored on a fielding error by Hyland – starting game No. 2 at third base – Gaucho third baseman DeJanee Moore singled home sister and catcher MeShalon Moore for a 2-0 lead. Gaucho center fielder Stacy Cavazos then sliced a fly ball to Tyler in right field. Charging in, Tyler dropped the fly and the miscue allowed first baseman Samantha Stark to score.
Pingree, starting game No. 2 as well, returned to retire the Mustangs in order in the bottom half of the second. Cal Poly's best chance to break through versus Pingree prior to the seventh came during the bottom half of the third as Ceccacci tripled with two down. Pingree, however, forced a Sandoval groundout to end the inning.
After conceding UC Santa Barbara's three runs in the second, Mustang starting righthander Lindsey Chalmers (5-7) allowed just two Gauchos to reach as far as second base until the sixth, when second baseman Arianna Palomares led off the inning with a home run.
Trailing 4-0 entering the bottom of the seventh, Cal Poly enjoyed a leadoff homer from Hyland before sophomore second baseman Ashley Tornio followed a Heyward single with a run-scoring double. Still with no outs, Mustang junior first baseman Breana West drew a four-pitch walk before junior pinch hitter Betsy Colburn mustered a run-scoring fielder's choice to cut Cal Poly's deficit to 4-3.
On in relief of Pingree, however, UC Santa Barbara righthanded reliever Lena Mayer picked up her second save of 2015 by retiring the final two Mustangs of the game.
Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara will close the three-game set with a 12 noon matchup on Saturday, April 4.