With conference play now underway, the UCSB baseball team might finally be clicking.
This weekend, the Gauchos took two of three games under cold, windy conditions in their opening series of Big West play against conference rival Cal Poly. The series win was their first of the season on the road, and the team improves to 14-13, 2-1 in the Big West.
“The team is just starting to realize how good we can be,” senior infielder Gunnar Terhune said. “We can win the Big West if we played like we played [on Sunday].”
Cal Poly, who has struggled this season after winning 37 games in 2009 on its way to a regional berth in the NCAA tournament, dropped to 10-21 and 2-4 in the Big West.
Terhune drove in two runs in Sunday’s 10-3 victory as part of a seven-run drive in the top of the seventh that gave the Gauchos an 8-3 lead. Junior right-fielder Mark Haddow hit a double, scored a run, and drove in two more with a single during the offensive surge.
“The wind was coming in really hard from the right, and it wasn’t a good day to be a hitter,” Haddow said. “But we came in with the approach to hit the ball on the line hard, we strung a couple of hits together, tacked on a bunch of runs and went on from there.”
Right-handed junior Jesse Meaux pitched his first career complete game in the effort, allowing three runs and no walks in nine innings and improving his season record to 4-1.
“He’s sitting right in front of me on the bus right now, and I just complimented him on how aggressive he is,” Terhune said. “He’s so talented. Every pitcher in the Big West is talented, but [Meaux] comes right after guys. His aggressiveness and the way he can go from pitch to pitch is amazing.”
In Saturday’s 10-9 win, junior second baseman Sean Williams drove in the winning run with a two-out single in the top of the ninth. Junior right-hander Greg Davis pitched the final four innings for the Gauchos, allowing only one hit and striking out his last four batters in a performance that suggests the Gauchos have a solution to the bullpen issues they have had this season. Davis has now pitched 10 consecutive innings without allowing a run, striking out 12 with no walks.
“[Davis’] command has been outstanding,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He’s certainly moved into the position of being our go-to guy [in late innings]. He’s just been that good.”
On Friday night, the Gauchos lost 4-3 in the 10th inning. UCSB junior left-hander Mario Hollands struck out seven and allowed three runs on four hits in yet another strong performance for the Gauchos’ ace, but the Gaucho offense could only produce one run in six innings off Cal Poly starting pitcher Matt Leonard.
“We played alright in the first one, we just didn’t run into the type of pitching [we saw in the first game] the next few days,” Brontsema said. “We stayed persistent and competitive for 27 outs all weekend. Going pitch by pitch, I thought we competed very well.”
The Gauchos return home to face Pepperdine at Caesar Uyesaka on April 13 at 2 p.m. before their three-game home series against Big West foe Cal State Fullerton on April 16.