The UCSB baseball team heads back into action this weekend, facing off against Santa Clara in its first home series of the season.
Santa Barbara is coming off a disheartening 14-inning loss to UCLA, in which the Gauchos were one out away from victory. Following the defeat, UCSB is eager to get back on the field so it can finally play up to its capabilities.
"Our team is aware and confident in our ability," Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. "But we haven’t played to our ability and we haven’t been consistent yet."
The UCSB offense was rusty before it confronted the Bruins, having not faced live pitching in four days. The Gauchos averaged over 10 runs a game after their series against San Jose State, but the normally powerful Santa Barbara lineup struggled against the Bruins, scoring only five runs. Yet Brontsema was hesitant to make excuses for the lack of production.
"We missed a lot of balls [Wednesday]," Brontsema said. "We were pulling off a lot of pitches. I attribute some of that to not seeing any live arms. But we don’t need excuses and we should have made some game adjustments."
With the offense slumping at the plate, it was the pitching staff that kept the Gauchos close to the Bruins. UCSB will send hurlers Rylie Ogle, Jim Bullard and James Garcia to the mound this weekend at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. All three pitched well at UCLA, allowing a combined three runs in eight innings of work. Garcia, a transfer from El Camino Junior College, hurled six out of the eight innings and allowed only one run.
"My philosophy is the same as the team’s," Garcia said. "We stay down in the zone and make them put the ball in play. We always just go compete and be aggressive."
Despite losing to UCLA, the Gauchos have many positives to take from the game. Santa Barbara committed only one error against the Bruins, after making 12 in three games versus SJSU. Cutting down on fielding miscues was a welcomed improvement for Santa Barbara, according to senior second basemen Chad Peshke.
"I think it was a lot of help working on defense last week in practice," Peshke said. "I think we’re focusing a lot more out there now too."
UCSB has been unable to put it together in all three phases of the game thus far, and even though Santa Clara (1-6) is not on equal par with UCLA, the Gauchos know that they will still have to play well to come away with a couple of wins.
"[Santa Clara’s] losses came against some good competition," Garcia said. "We’re both competitive teams that can win on any given day. But, we’d love to run up the score and bury them all three days."