Angie Banks/Daily Nexus

Three days ago, the No. 6 UCSB baseball team set a new program record for most consecutive wins in a single season with 13 following a 4-1 at Cal State Bakersfield. Still, the season still has a ways to go as Santa Barbara will look to continue one of its best seasons in program history when it takes on UC Riverside.

Saying the Gauchos are in the midst of their best season ever is not much of an overstatement at this point considering they are off to their best start in school history with a 31-5 overall record. UCSB is also sitting atop the Big West standings with an 8-1 conference record following sweeps of UC Davis, UC Irvine and taking two of three at CSUF.

In previous years, Santa Barbara going on the road would be enough to worry about the team faring well. In fact, before this year, UCSB was 76-91-1 in the Andrew Checketts era and the last two seasons in particular, the team was an abysmal 13-33.

This year, the Gauchos are 11-4 and if they win four of their final nine road matches that would be the most road wins in the Checketts era.

This week, UCSB will take on a UCR team that is struggling. The Highlanders are currently 13-25 overall and sit at seventh in the conference with a 3-6 Big West mark. UCR is a much better 6-6 at home compared to a 7-19 record away from Riverside.

Still, if UCR has any hopes of upsetting a hot UCSB team then it will need to focus on taking away its strong bats.

Through its nine conference games, Santa Barbara is slashing .318/.372/.538. Specifically, the Gauchos .318 batting average and .538 slugging is first in the conference while its .372 on base percentage is second only behind Fullerton.

Counting all games, not just conference, the Gauchos are the best team in the conference in nearly all statistics such as: batting average (.290), on-base percentage (.383), slugging percentage (.495), home runs (42), RBI’s (232), doubles (74), triples (22) and runs (258).

Tommy Jew is one of the players directly responsible for this strong Gaucho offense. The junior center fielder currently sports a strong .296 batting average and in the last four games, he has gone 7-15 at the plate with two RBI’s and one home run. His 30 RBI’s are tied for the second-most on the team.

Jew leads the team in homers with nine on the season and he has also been a terror on the base paths with 16 stolen bases, tied for the team best mark with fellow outfielder Tevin Mitchell.

Jew has also been stellar defensively with a perfect fielding percentage and he has also made some great catches including one that stole a home run.

Another very hot bat is senior designated hitter/catcher Thomas Rowan who comes into the series opener working a seven-game hit streak. In fact, Rowan has successfully earned a hit in all but six games this season.

In the month of April, which UCSB has played in 12 games, Rowan is 18-43 (.418) with 12 RBI’s, four home runs, two extra-base hits and striking out just six times in 43 at bats. The senior has also had 14 multiple hit games this season in his 36 appearances.

On the mound, the Gauchos do not get much easier. Michael McGreevy has quickly transformed himself into the first guy out of the bullpen for the Gauchos as the freshman sports a Big West best 1.62 ERA.

Left-handed Saturday starting pitcher Jack Dashwood has also been hot as of late and was named Big West Pitcher of the Week this past Tuesday following a dominant performance against UC Davis.

The sophomore tossed a three-hit, complete game shutout and was actually working a perfect game through seven innings before allowing back-to-back singles.

Finally, ace closer Chris Lincoln, whose 10 saves are a league best, was recently named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch List. The junior righty currently holds a 4.18 ERA and has struck out 25 batters in just 23.1 innings of work.

Still, UCSB does need to watch out for the Highlanders streak hitter, Connor Cannon. The junior right-handed pitcher/first baseman has been on an absolute tear the past two weeks winning back-to-back Big West Field Player of the Week.

Last week, Cannon had a slash line of .588/.650/1.235 as he hit three home runs and knocked in 11 runs. He broke UCR’s program record for most RBI’s in a game with eight against New Mexico on April 19.

Overall, this week is just another week for UCSB to inch closer to something it hasn’t laid claim to in more than 30 years, a Big West title. There is no time for complacency in conference play. 13 straight wins is great, but nothing compared to the other ambitions this team has.

UCSB will take on UC Riverside for game one of the series at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 26 at the Riverside Sports Complex.

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