The newly ranked No. 24 UCSB baseball team will look to get back to its winning ways when it takes on Pepperdine in its final non-conference game before Big West play begins this Friday.
The Gauchos come into the match-up with an 18-4 overall record and have won nine of their last 10 games. The Waves host the game with a 10-12 overall record, 2-4 in conference play, and losers of four of their last six games.
After another three wins last week, Santa Barbara was able to finally crack the NCAA top 25 for the first time this season now being ranked 24th in the country. It also ranks 22nd in the NCBWA and 19th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
A big storyline for this game will be how UCSB will handle being away from home. Its next seven games will be away from Santa Barbara and it currently holds a 2-3 record.
Combine that with the fact that Pepperdine is 9-6 at home this year with wins over quality teams such as fellow Big West counterpart Cal Poly, and the Gauchos could be in some trouble.
The Waves will make it hard for their opponent most notably with their ability to hit the long ball as their 20 home runs as a team this season ranks 45th in the NCAA.
Pepperdine’s hitting is led by young outfielder, Matthew Kanfer. The freshman leads the team in batting average (.348) and is tied for first in RBI (18).
Kanfer had a breakout performance two weekends ago as he contributed nine hits, 11 RBI, one home run and five runs scored in four games against Columbia University.
Other solid hitters include junior infielder Manny Jefferson who leads the team in home runs (5), first in slugging percentage (.585) tied for first in RBI (18), and junior outfielder Matt Gelalich who leads the team in on base percentage (.429)
In today’s match-up, Pepperdine will most likely throw junior Chandler Blanchard on the mound. The right-hander has had his struggles as he currently boasts a 1-1 record with a 4.61 ERA after allowing seven runs on 13 hits in 13.2 innings pitched.
The junior will have a tough time as he will face one of the best hitting teams in the country in UCSB.
The Gauchos will look to key players such as recently named Big West Field Player of the Week, Josh Adams, to keep up their strong play. The redshirt sophomore leads the team in home runs with five.
Adams received POTW honors after a great week in which he batted 5-12 (.417), six RBI, and one home run. UCSB would love to see him carry that momentum into today’s game.
Fellow teammate and the other POTW recipient from a couple weeks ago, sophomore first baseman Austin Bush, will also do his part. The strong hitter leads the team in RBI (21), ranks second in hits (22) and is third in batting average (.328).
Another player who has caught some fire as of late is redshirt sophomore Dempsey Grover. The catcher leads the team in batting average (.421), hits (24) and on base percentage (.519).
Possible starter for today’s game in terms of pitching could be freshman Kyle Hatton (2-0). The left hander has done well in limited time registering a 1.29 ERA as he has only allowed one run and three hits while striking out five batters in seven innings pitched.
This game, as well as these next seven matches, will be very telling of the Gauchos. Although they have had a great start to the season, they need to be able to prove they can win away from home.
UCSB’s next game is today against Pepperdine at 3 p.m at Eddy D. Field Stadium.
Jorge Mercado is the current Editor in Chief and was a Sports Editor before that since freshman year. He prefers to be called Merk as that was his nickname given to him by the gods. Sometimes, his evil twin Mork appears. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.