The sights and sounds of high school softball: sun visors and ponytails, windmilling arms, the thunk of a solid hit, players chanting in the dugouts like dueling Greek choruses.
Last Friday’s game between Dos Pueblos and San Marcos had a bracing vitality, because two days earlier, San Marcos had gone to the DP diamond and scored a 7-3 victory. It was the Royals’ first victory over the Chargers in nine years.
“We were pumped up today,” said DP pitcher Gabriella Gandall, who heard blandishments of “Gabby” throughout the rematch at San Marcos. “We had to beat them.” That the Chargers did, by a score of 11-5. “Everybody hit. Everybody scored,” Gandall said. “Everybody’s happy.”
Dos Pueblos piled up five runs in the third inning to take a 6-2 lead. In the bottom of the inning, DP centerfielder Lauren Marmo robbed the Royals’ Cara Christian of a two-run homer. She bent down the top of the outfield fence while catching Christian’s deep fly ball. “I think I broke it,” Marmo said.
She shattered the hopes of the Royals, although they continued to put runners on the bases. “They have four solid hitters,” said DP coach Jon Uyesaka. “They aren’t the San Marcos of old.” One of those hitters was Hailee Rios, who came up in the first inning and pounded her ninth home run of the season, an opposite-field shot to right.
Meanwhile, the Chargers collected 16 hits, finding holes in the infield and gaps in the outfield. After sending several pitchers to Division 1 colleges in recent years, Dos Pueblos has found itself in some high-scoring affairs. “Teams are giving up a lot of runs,” Uyesaka said. “We’ve got to play defense.”
The Chargers, ranked No. 2 in CIF Division 4, have the smartest infield this side of MIT (the college where senior shortstop/pitcher Madison Pickett is headed). Pickett is a member of the prestigious DP Engineering Academy, as are juniors Siena Wagner, who played second base Friday, and Anya Schmitz at third.
“I play softball to forget about school and relax my brain,” said Pickett, who will focus on mechanical engineering. “On a team, I have friends to rely on.”
Rios — who, besides her slugging, is also San Marcos’s top pitcher — has college intentions of her own. “I’m talking to Southeast Missouri State,” said the strong junior. “I’m interested in agriculture and ranching. It’s a lifestyle I like.” On a recent hunting trip, Rios bagged a wild pig. As the Royals are learning a taste of her killer instinct, Dos Pueblos has to beware of them on the softball diamond.
TRUE CHARACTER AND TALL TALE: Jim Barber accomplished quite a lot after graduating from UCSB in 1967. He served in Vietnam, started a family, and went into law practice after finishing at the top of his class at UC Berkeley. As a member of the UCSB Alumni Board, he helped grads reconnect with their alma mater by founding the All Gaucho Reunion 10 years ago. His last crusade was to promote research into ALS, the disease that took his life earlier this year.
As the long snapper on the Gaucho football team in 1965, Barber had a key role in their historic 3-0 victory over Hawai‘i. Heavy rains had turned the Honolulu field into a swamp, and the ball was floating when Barber reached down to snap it back for Steve Ford’s kick. At a celebration of Barber’s life Saturday, teammate Bart Weitzenberg recalled “Cactus” Jack Curtice’s fanciful tale about the winning play. Curtice, the folksy Gaucho coach, said he found a catfish in the slop beyond the goalposts where the football supposedly landed. He told the team it must have been the fish that Ford kicked over the crossbar.
WINNING WEEKEND: The alumni reunion brought out the best in UCSB athletics against three visiting Hawai‘i teams. The Gauchos won their first Big West women’s water polo championship, defeating the Rainbow Wahine 11-5 in the final. They will face two-time defending champion Stanford in the opening round of the NCAA tournament May 13.
UCSB swept Hawai‘i in a three-game baseball series and took two out of three in softball. The Gauchos dominated the Big West tennis championships at Indian Wells, the women taking their first title in 20 years with a 4-0 rout of Hawai‘i, the men winning their second straight over Cal Poly. And in a track-and-field meet at Cal Poly, the Gaucho men and women both finished first.
FOREVER YOUNG: Seven-time All-Star Michael Young threw the ceremonial first pitch before the UCSB-Hawai‘i baseball game Saturday. In town to be inducted into the Gaucho Athletic Hall of Fame, the former shortstop eschewed the usual lob and fired an impressive fastball. It makes you think the L.A. Dodgers, the last team Young played for in 2013, could use him in their bullpen.
HOPE FOR ’DOGS: Leicester City, a 5,000-1 long shot at the start of the season, has clinched the English Premier League soccer championship. How unlikely is that? You can go to Las Vegas and bet on UCSB winning the 2017 NCAA basketball title at mere odds of 2,000-1.
S.B. ATHLETIC ROUND TABLE ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Hunter Clark, Dos Pueblos track and field
Santa Barbara County Meet champion (1,600 and 3,200 meters) continued his dominant distance running in a dual meet against San Marcos, winning the 800, 1,600, and 3,200 and running a leg on the first-place 4x400 relay team.
Samantha Murphy, UCSB water polo
Besides receiving an award as UCSB’s top scholar-athlete, the senior was recognized for her MVP performance in the Big West Championships. She led the Gauchos with nine goals, including an overtime winner in the semifinals against UC Irvine.