SAN LUIS OBISPO – Senior righthander Sierra Hyland (above) struck out 10 UC Santa Barbara hitters as the Cal Poly softball program opened Big West Conference action and a Saturday doubleheader versus the Gauchos with a 4-1 victory at Bob Janssen Field. Cal Poly completed the doubleheader sweep in game No. 2 with junior righthander Lindsey Chalmers striking out five and Hyland recording her program record sixth career save as the Mustangs prevailed, 3-1.
Both Hyland and junior shortstop Chelsea Convissar finished with a team leading three combined hits on Saturday for Cal Poly, which opened Big West play with successive victories for the first time since 2008.
During Saturday's opening victory, Hyland (15-5) struck out two UC Santa Barbara hitters in the top of the first inning before striking out the Gaucho side in the third. She walked right fielder Jessica Johnston with one down in the top of the fourth to snap a string of five successive strikeouts, but closed the inning by fanning two more Gauchos.
Hyland failed to allow a baserunner past second until the fifth, when the Gauchos advanced two into scoring position with two down. Hyland, however, struck out left fielder Kristen Clark to keep the matchup a stalemate.
Offensively, Cal Poly (26-8, 2-0) saw its leadoff hitter reach during three of the first four innings without scoring. Convissar, however, doubled to lead off the fifth and, after second baseman Ashley Tornio produced a sacrifice bunt, third baseman Stephanie Heyward drew the go-ahead run by singling up the middle to bring home Convissar. Senior left fielder Courtney Tyler doubled Cal Poly's lead later in the inning by producing a sacrifice fly to score Tornio.
Hyland conceded her only run in the top of the sixth as Gaucho first baseman Whitney Pemberton mustered a one-out sacrifice fly to plate shortstop Melanie Menor. Cal Poly, however, regained its two-run cushion in the bottom half as a throwing error by Gaucho starting righthander Veronika Gulvin helped score freshman pinch runner Alyssa McKiernan. Heyward then earned RBI No. 2 with a sac fly that brought home Convissar for the 4-1 advantage.
Hyland, who chalked up her seventh double-digit strikeout game of 2017, retired the Gauchos in order during the top of the seventh to close out the win.
During Saturday's second victory, Chalmers (10-3) stranded the Gaucho bases loaded to close the top of the first before retiring UC Santa Barbara in order during the second and third innings.
At the plate, Cal Poly was held to one hit through the opening two innings before breaking through against Gaucho starting righthander Ashley Wright (1-1) in the bottom of the third. Both Convissar and Heyward singled to place Mustangs at the corner bases and, with one down, Hyland produced a base hit up the middle to deliver Cal Poly a 1-0 advantage.
Handed the lead, Chalmers returned in the top of the fourth and struck out two Gauchos to preserve Cal Poly's 1-0 edge. She conceded just a solitary hit in the fifth and, during the bottom half, Cal Poly increased its lead. Tornio drew a leadoff walk and, after moving to second through a Heyward sacrifice bunt, she attempted a steal of third. Gaucho catcher Sam Lujan's throw sailed wide of third baseman Emily Brucelas and the error allowed Tornio to score. Hyland followed with a single before sophomore right fielder Crimson Kaiser tucked a run-scoring double inside the left field line.
Chalmers stranded two Gauchos in scoring position to close the sixth. She allowed UC Santa Barbara's lone run of game No. 2 with two down in the seventh as Clark bounded a single up the middle to score pinch runner Nicole Marino for a 3-1 Gaucho deficit. Two batters later, Hyland entered and induced a game-ending fly out from first baseman Sierra Altmeyer to earn her sixth career save and move past Eva Nelson (2002-05) for the top spot in program history.
Cal Poly closes its three-game series against UC Santa Barbara with a 1 p.m. matchup on Sunday, April 2.