The UCSB baseball team continues its nine-game homestand today by welcoming San Jose State to Southern California for a three-game series.
The struggling 2-6 Spartans are mired in a six-game losing streak after winning their first two games under rookie Head Coach Dave Nakama. The 4-4 Gauchos and Head Coach Andrew Checketts look to bounce back after a deflating defeat by UCLA on Tuesday.
“We had a rough game Tuesday, so we will be looking to bounce back this weekend and prove to ourselves and to everybody else that we can bounce back,” senior third baseman Marc Venning said. “We just need to focus on what we have to do as a team and focus on playing the game instead of the opponent.”
San Jose comes in having just dropped a close game to San Francisco on Tuesday. After leading 1-0 through five innings, the Dons put up a single run in the sixth to tie the score and then scored a run in the eighth to take the lead, which would be enough for the win.
Losing late leads has become a trend recently for SJSU. In two games against Arizona, the Spartans held late leads but fell after some shaky relief pitching. They had a three-run lead into the seventh inning Sunday before a five-run inning followed by a four-run inning in the eighth all but put them away. On Friday they again held a lead, this time all the way to the bottom of the ninth, but a two out error led to a three run triple to cap the win for Arizona.
“[San Jose] has played some tough people and have played on the road,” Checketts said. “Arizona is a tough place to go out and win and they had a lead in two of those games before they lost them late, so they will be competitive and have a chip on their shoulder.”
The Gauchos have seen their fair share of pitching woes this early season as well. On Tuesday afternoon, a combination of three relief pitchers in the sixth inning gave up seven runs allowing UCLA to run away with the game.
“There have been some freshmen that have been a little out of character,” Checketts said. “Our freshmen came in and struggled quite a bit. There were some growing pains. We would like them to grow a little faster and get through that, but I think they will bounce back and learn from it and be more prepared and tougher because of it.”
One constant this year, however, has been solid starting pitching from sophomore Austin Pettibone. Friday afternoon’s scheduled starter heads into the weekend with a 1-0 record and a 0.67 earned run average in his two starts. Fellow starter sophomore Andrew Vasquez has struck out 11 through his nine innings of work and holds opponents to a .156 batting average against.
At the plate, the Gauchos are led by sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa, who just had his seven-game hitting streak ended Tuesday. Kuresa, along with junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon, sophomore outfielder Luke Swenson and sophomore third baseman Peter Maris lead the team with six RBI each. The timely hitting by each player has helped to stabilize a lineup that is without its everyday third baseman in Venning.
The weekend series begins today at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
A version of this article appeared on page 4 of March 1st, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.