If UCSB baseball thought its last series against Cal Poly was tough, they may be in for a shocker this weekend.
The Gauchos (19-21 overall, 1-5 in the Big West) will get back on the road today, traveling to #2 Fullerton for a three-game set beginning tonight. The Titans (30-11, 8-1 Big West) are not only in a tie for first in the conference, but are also the defending national champions.
“I think [Fullerton] can beat you in so many different ways,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “They have great pitching and that’s a good start, but I think they’re also leading the conference in defense as well.”
A trip to Fullerton’s Goodwin Field can almost guarantee a sweep for the Titans. In its 13th season at Goodwin, Fullerton has a combined record of 299-92 and has yet to lose a series at home this season. The Gauchos have a tough test ahead of them, entering the series with just six wins in 17 road games this year.
Santa Barbara travels to Fullerton after being swept at home last weekend by Cal Poly. The Mustangs, allowing 33 runs over 27 innings, beat up the UCSB pitching staff. In contrast, last weekend Fullerton swept the same Davis team that took all three games against the Gauchos.
To have a chance against the Titans, Santa Barbara will have to improve its defense. Six errors resulted in eight unearned runs last weekend. Against a Fullerton offense that is batting .317, even one error can be damaging.
“On the offensive end, [Fullerton's] very aggressive. They have great team speed and they play the little game very well.” Brontsema said. “They put a lot of pressure on your defense and that’s going to be a test for us with an inexperienced infield out there.”
With seven of its nine starters batting over .300, Fullerton has outscored its opponents by 144 runs this season. Junior right fielder Sergio Pedroza leads the Titan bats with a .347 average and 41 RBI, while fellow junior left fielder Danny Dorn is tops on the squad with 38 runs scored.
The Gaucho bats will need to be on this weekend against some quality arms on the mound for Fullerton. Starting southpaw junior Ricky Romero is 8-4 in his 12 starts, allowing just 31 runs in 88.2 innings and holding opponents to a .217 batting average. Out of the bullpen, sophomore Vinnie Pestano has eight saves in his team-leading 20 appearances, striking out 28 players in 29 innings pitched.
Santa Barbara’s quest to knock the Titans off their throne begins tonight, with first pitch scheduled for 7.