The UCSB baseball team gets a chance at some revenge tonight against the University of San Diego.
The Gauchos lost to the Toreros last Tuesday in San Diego 7-5 after blowing an early lead. USD’s power-hitting junior third baseman Kris Bryant hit two of his 20 home runs in the last meeting between the two and will be a threat to do it again as his amazing season continues.
UCSB is currently 20-18 overall and 6-6 in the Big West, good enough for sixth place in league. The team has also gone 2-1 since the last meeting between these two teams as UCSB took a conference series win against Long Beach State over the weekend. USD has been even better, going 3-0 since Tuesday and improving to 24-15 and 9-6 in the West Coast Conference, moving into a four-way tie for second place.
In last Tuesday’s game, the Gauchos put up thee runs to take the lead in the top of the third on a couple of doubles. The Toreros responded in the bottom of the third for two, though, to chip away at the lead on a Bryant two-run home run.
They then scored four more runs in the fourth to take a lead that they would not relinquish thanks to an additional home run by Bryant in the seventh.
“Don’t throw the ball in the strike zone when Kris Bryant is up,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said about one of the keys to the game. “We’ve got to get the guys out in front of him and don’t pitch to him. We learned the hard way [last week].”
USD’s Bryant currently sits at 20 home runs on the year, tops among all players in the NCAA. Last week, Bryant was named the national player of the week as he went 7-14 with a double, five home runs and six RBI. He is not a feast-or-famine hitter either, as he is hitting .353 on the year and has struck out only 27 times in 136 at bats.
Bryant’s .897 slugging percentage, also best in the NCAA, is grounds for teams to pitch around as he has walked 49 times, 30 more than any other San Diego player. The walks, along with his average, have led to his .530 on-base percentage, which ranks second in the NCAA.
Bryant’s numbers could be even more impressive if it were not for the fact he hits atop the Torero lineup. Bryant’s high OBP has led him to score 51 runs on the year and his five stolen bases are second on his team.
The Toreros scorched the Santa Barbara pitching staff for three home runs last week, since the weekday games typically feature relief pitchers throwing just a few innings as health has been an issue for the Gauchos’ staff this season.
“We need to figure out who we are going to throw,” Checketts said. “We are a little short-manned with some guys banged up right now. It will probably be a staff day [today].”
The Gaucho offense has started to heat up in recent games. Junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon went deep twice over the weekend and has driven in six runs over his last four games. Sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa, who homered in the last game against USD, and freshman designated hitter Robby Nesovic, who homered Sunday, have also shown some power for the Gauchos as they look to get some revenge from last Tuesday‘s loss.
“Clutch hitting — it’s all we need,” Trinkwon said. “We throw strikes really well and our defense is good when we do throw strikes, so it’s just clutch hitting. We have to get guys on base and execute. Its all we really need to focus on.”
First pitch is slated to take place at 3 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
A version of this article appeared on page 14 of April 24th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus