The UCSB baseball team has embarked on its second road trip of the season this weekend traveling to Austin to play a three-game series with the University of Texas. The Gauchos head into the series after a successful weekend as they are winners of four straight. Texas welcomes Santa Barbara having just snapped a four game losing streak with a decisive 6-1 victory against Texas Pan-American.
“The key [to the weekend] is just to get our young guys to go play the game of baseball and not play Texas,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “We need to have the attitude of Texas is playing us and we are playing the game of baseball and that is really the message to our guys. The pitching mound is still going to be 60 feet, six inches and first base is still 90 feet away.”
Texas at 7-5 so far this season got off to a great start. The Longhorns began the year at 6-1 and swept Nebraska at home before hitting the losing streak against the likes of Sam Houston State and Stanford.
The Longhorns are led by preseason All-American junior pitcher Corey Knebel. Knebel was named to the second team as well as the Stopper of the Year watch list and Golden Spikes watch list. So far this year, the closer has recorded three saves in 11.1 innings pitched and is just 11 saves away from passing Houston Street as the schools all-time saves leader. Knebel headlines a bullpen that has kept the Longhorns a perfect 7-0 when leading through six innings.
The 8-4 Gauchos, currently in fourth place in the Big West, look to take advantage of the strong Texas pitching by continuing their hot hitting. Over the four game winning streak, the Gauchos have outscored their opponents 24-7, and in the last four games have twice won in their last at bat. The success of the offense stems from the ability to get the lead-off runner on board.
“We like to get guys moving and run. We sacrifice bunted a lot last year and haven’t as much this year,” Checketts said. “Our first order of priority is to steal and if you can’t run on the pitcher or catcher the second option is to hit and run. If the guys got really good stuff we will go to sac bunting because we like to keep guys moving and put pressure on people.”
As a team, UCSB is hitting a solid .280 on the year. Sophomore utility man Woody Woodward leads the team with a .438 average and a stellar .561 on base percentage. Woodward and sophomore centerfielder and leadoff hitter Cameron Newell lead the team with 10 and 11 runs scored, respectively, and are driven in regularly by the heart of the order thanks to consistent hitting from junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon and sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa.
“I imagine if we think the pitcher is going to be on his game and that it will be tough to put up a couple runs we will be bunting and stealing more than usual,” Trinkwon said. “But if he is off his game you may see us swing away.”
The weekend matchups and projected starters are sophomore Austin Pettibone at 5p.m. on Friday, freshman Justin Jacome at noon Saturday and sophomore Andrew Vasquez at 10 a.m. on Sunday at the University of Texas’ Disch-Falk Field.