UCSB kicks off Spring Quarter with a home game today against Pepperdine University.
The Gauchos enter the game after splitting a four game weekend series in Hawaii, where the two teams split the series 2-2. Santa Barbara improved to 14-12 overall, but game four of the series was a non-conference match-up. As a result, the Gauchos’ Big West record remains just 1-2, leaving them in sixth in the early goings of league play.
“I wish I could trade that [win],” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “We were not originally supposed to play a fourth one but Hawaii was short games and whenever you go to Hawaii those games don’t count towards your 56 game maximum, so we picked up the game, but I wish we could trade it with one of the losses.”
Pepperdine makes the trip to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium with a 15-11 record and a strong 6-3 West Coast Conference record. The Waves are coming off a three game series at BYU where they dropped the first two games in Utah before taking the final game of the series 9-6. Pepperdine will be concluding its five game road trip today.
Pepperdine sophomore catcher Kolten Yamaguchi went 3-5 in the final game of the series against BYU and drove in two runs. In fact, Yamaguchi has been on a tear as of late. He has played in just 13 of the Waves 26 games, but leads the team with a .396 batting average, is tied for the team lead with four home runs and leads the team with a .688 slugging percentage.
Sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa and junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon headline the gaucho offense. Both had solid weekends in Hawaii as each drove in three runs. Trinkwon broke out in a big way in the final game in Hawaii with two hits, including a homerun, two runs scored and three RBI.
Kuresa has continued his dominance as the most dangerous hitter in the Gauchos lineup. He has his average up to .294 with team leading seven doubles, two triples and a homerun, while his 20 RBI rank sixth in the Big West.
“We are facing a left hander and we have swung the bats pretty well against left handers, so that’s in our favor.” Checketts said. “The lineup is also getting easier to write out because we have so many injuries right now and don’t have a whole lot of options. We had a really good effort by Dalton Kelly on the last weekend so he will be out there again.”
Freshman outfielder Kelly went 6-11 with two triples and six RBI while in Hawaii to make a name for himself in this Gaucho lineup and out performed most anyone on the road trip.
Heading into Tuesday’s game the Gauchos will be starting their third freshman starting pitcher in the last three games as the long weekend has taken its toll on the staff.
“We are going to have to staff the game [today].” Checketts said. “We are a little thin on the mound and we used a lot of guys so Hector Lujan will start for us. He will go probably just a couple innings then we will use everyone else for an inning or so.”
First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
A version of this article appeared on page six of April 2nd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Megali Gauthier of the Daily Nexus