Though all but disqualified from post-season contention, the UCSB baseball team will look for a winning weekend against Cal Poly in its last three-game series of the season beginning tonight. The Gauchos will face the Mustangs for the first time since April 10, a game in which UCSB won at home 6-5.
“It was a close game,” senior outfielder Joey Wallace said. “There’s definitely a rivalry between us so any time we play each other is going to be a close game. I would expect nothing less from this weekend.”
The Gauchos are currently ranked No. 6 in conference with a 10-11 league record and a 24-24 mark overall. Cal Poly, which will be hosting UCSB this weekend for the first time all season, currently stands at No. 4 in the Big West with a 10-8 league record and 30-20 mark overall.
Cal Poly’s home record has been strong this season; the Mustangs are 19-7 when competing at Baggett Stadium. Cal Poly has swept three teams in three-game series this year — first visiting Oklahoma State, then San Diego State, and most recently University of the Pacific. UCSB has leveled off at .500 in road games, and has swept two teams in three-game series, San Jose State and University of the Pacific.
The Mustangs have been fueling their wins from behind the plate all season. Cal Poly currently leads the Big West conference with a .288 batting average, .416 slugging percentage, 285 runs scored, 499 hits and 264 RBI. The Gauchos rank No. 2 in slugging percentage with a .372 mark, and No. 3 in RBIs with 260.
“We definitely know they’re an offensive threat, so we need to stay focused on defense and our pitchers need to pound the strike zone,” Wallace said. “We can’t give them any extra opportunities since they can take advantage of them … they’re a good hitting team.”
Pitching for UCSB this weekend will likely be freshman lefthander Andrew Vasquez, who has seen a considerable amount of time at the mound this season, and has likewise seen his performance improve over the weeks. Vasquez currently leads the league with a 1.73 ERA and is ranked No. 1 in opponent’s batting average by only allowing other teams a .197 average against him.
Vasquez and the Gaucho pitching staff will see an unusual competitor from behind the plate this weekend in Cal Poly junior outfielder Mitch Haniger. Haniger leads the Big West offensively with a .616 batting average, and ranks No. 3 overall with 39 runs scored.
When the two teams met for a nonconference, solo-game series on April 10 in Santa Barbara, Haniger hit 2-for-5 with a team-leading two runs scored, yet the Gauchos were able to pull off a 6-5 victory. The games saw three different pitchers take the mound for UCSB, including senior righthander Matt Vedo, who allowed just two runs and five hits in 6.2 innings pitched.
“I think we have a better idea of what they’re going to bring offensive-wise,” Wallace said. “It’d be huge to go up there and win a series. We’ve worked hard all year and that’d be a nice little payoff.”
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. tonight at Cal Poly’s Baggett Stadium.