After charging through the Trojans 5-4 on the road Wednesdsay, the UCSB baseball team now travels north for a three-game series against University of the Pacific. Pacific is currently ranked last place at No. 8 overall in the Big West conference with a 1-5 league record and is 11-24 on the season. The Gauchos are tied for the No. 4 spot in the Big West alongside UC Irvine with a 4-5 league record and are 18-17 overall.
UCSB Head Coach Andrew Checketts commands a Gaucho squad that has thus far proven to be more aggressive from behind the plate; UCSB currently bats with a .280 average, good enough for No. 2 overall in the league.
Pacific holds the No. 1 spot in conference with a .287 average.
“I know they’re offensive,” Checketts said. “Hopefully our pitching staff can do what we’ve done over the last month and we can just score five runs and win.”
Scoring five runs could be the magic number for the Gauchos, who have scored at least the same amount in seven of their past nine victories.
“Hopefully we can score some runs,” Checketts said. “I’m not a big 14-13 football score guy.”
UCSB faces a Pacific squad that has won just two of its last seven games. The Tigers are 7-6 at home, and have yet to win a conference series after getting swept by UC Irvine and falling two games to one against UC Davis, both of which series took place away from Pacific. The Tigers have not yet faced a conferenceopponent at their home stadium.
Though UCSB’s successes thus far this season have come in part from its dominance behind the plate, Checketts’ talented roster of pitchers has also been a handy addition to the UCSB win column. Freshman lefthander Andrew Vasquez has had a breakout year through the first months of the season. The Rancho Cucamonga native currently leads the Big West conference in ERA with a 1.66 average.
“Andrew has a slider that no one can hit,” Checketts said. “Not many freshmen lead their conference in ERA and strikeouts their first year.”
Wednesday’s game against USC gave the Gauchos another opportunity to test their skills in extended innings. UCSB failed to overcome a Long Beach State squad that played the Gauchos into 14 innings this past weekend, yet were able to rally in the ninth inning on Wednesday for what would be the first win decided in extra innings this year for UCSB.
In the ninth inning, three straight singles by UCSB opened the frame and gave the Gauchos the opportunity to cut down on the three-run USC lead. After a botched throw to first, senior outfielder Brett Vertigan was able to score safely at home, allowing the Gauchos to cut the lead to one. An RBI by junior Mark Venning scored the tying run.
After two scoreless extra innings, UCSB was able to put away the game-deciding run on an RBI single by freshman infielder Peter Maris.
“We were able to hold them down,” Checketts said. “That would have been a gut-buster to lose that one after losing all those close ones [against Long Beach State].”
First pitch today is set for 6 p.m. at Pacific.