When a team is about halfway into the regular season, the record will traditionally show a near-even distribution of home and away games. For UCR softball, this is not the case as, prior to this weekend’s three-game series at Cal State Fullerton, the team had only faced one opponent on the road in their first 33 games of the year. The opponent? The nation’s 24th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs, to whom the Highlanders fell, 4-3, in the final round of the Fresno State Kickoff in mid-February.
Both after and prior to then, the group has taken part in their share of tournaments, the majority of which were held at home, and others that were held on a neutral playing field. All this is to say that this weekend’s series against Fullerton was not only the opening of Big West play for UCR, but also their first true test on the road. The matchup between Fullerton and UCR was heavily hyped as, coming in, the two teams were slotted at first and second overall in the Big West, respectively. Yet that gap grew even wider Saturday as the Titans routed the Highlanders, 9-1, in the first side of the double-header before inching out a 2-1 victory in the second game.
Both games were won on the backs of Fullerton’s star power, with the first seeing Big West Player of the Week, Alexis Gonzalez, kick off the onslaught with a two-run homer in a third inning that later saw two more runs come across home, bringing their lead to 5-1. UCR didn’t have any response, only managing two hits and zero runs the rest of the game before Fullerton forced mercy rule in the bottom of the sixth to take the win. UCR’s lone run came courtesy of Haley Harris’ single in the third to bring Maddie Richard home.
The second game, while much more contested, saw two more strong individual performances from Fullerton’s side as pitcher Sydney Golden held UCR scoreless for three innings before a Chelsey Holley single brought Jenna Curtan home. Reigning Big West Pitcher of the Week, Desiree Ybarra, struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to earn her first save of the year.
Down 0-2 in the series, UCR looked to salvage one win in the final game Sunday, but rather suffered a 12-2 loss, their largest margin of defeat since their 15-3 loss to Northwestern to kick off the season on Feb. 12.
The series result moves UCR’s Big West record to 0-3, which sits them at the bottom of the conference standings, though they do still hold the conference’s second-best overall record at 23-12-1. The group will look to recover back at home this Saturday, April 8, and Sunday, April 9, with a three-game series against Big West opponent UC Santa Barbara.