After a disappointing series at Long Beach State over the weekend, the UCSB baseball team will once again travel south in the hopes of snapping a three-game losing streak this evening against USC. The Gauchos are currently 3-2 in non-conference, solo-game series this year.
“It’s getting down to the last third of the season,” senior outfielder Joe Wallace said. “Every game is important. We have to go out there and treat it like it’s a league game.”
The Gauchos dropped their previous three league games during this past weekend’s series at Long Beach, where UCSB fell in each game by an average of just over one run.
“We were not aggressive enough,” junior outfielder Brett Vertigan said. “We had a specific plan and we wouldn’t swing at pitches that were in our plan — we would get behind in the count.”
Vertigan, who currently bats with a .360 average, has already been named Big West player of the week once this season, and currently ranks No. 2 in conference in runs scored with 33 and No. 1 in the Big West in total hits with 54.
“He’s a true leadoff hitter,” Wallace said of Vertigan. “He’s got great speed, and what he can do with the bat is pretty incredible.”
UCSB will face a USC squad that was picked to finish No. 8 in the Pac-12 this season and has accumulated a 14-4 home record thus far. The Trojans’ senior infielder Matt Foat leads the team in batting with a .381 average and a .500 slugging percentage.
The Gauchos have a number of possibilities to combat Foat and the USC offense on the mound, one being freshman lefthander Andrew Vasquez. Vasquez currently holds a 1.66 ERA through nine appearances, all of which have been starting efforts. As arguably the team’s best freshman pitcher, Vasquez continues to impress his upperclassmen teammates.
“He’s great,” Vertigan said. “In the fall he was just an average lefty, and [now] he’s developed a slider that’s pretty much impossible to hit. He’s gonna be great for this program in the next couple of years.”
A deep pitching staff will give Head Coach Andrew Checketts other options as well, including freshman righthander Austin Pettibone and senior lefthander Zack Edgington, among others. Pettibone currently holds a 4.78 ERA through 10 games, while Edgington has thrown with a 3.16 ERA through 13 games.
USC has proven to be a dangerous opponent for Big West Conference teams throughout the season. The Trojans beat Long Beach State 4-2 on the road in late February, and also controlled a 5-4 win on the road at UC Irvine.
The Gauchos stand tied for No. 4 alongside UC Irvine in the Big West rankings with a 4-5 league record and a 17-17 overall effort this season. UCSB will look to break that .500 mark today against USC at Dedeaux Field on the Trojan campus.
“We need to get them early in the first inning,” Vertigan said. “We need to start off by scoring a few runs and setting them back on their heels.”
First pitch is set for 6 p.m.