The UCSB baseball team started its season this weekend, dropping two out of three road games to San Jose State.
Despite winning only one of three games, the Gauchos were able to showcase their high-powered lineup and determine where they need to improve if they are to contend for the Big West championship. Santa Barbara won the first game 15-8, dropping the next two 8-7 and 23-10.
"We didn’t play to our capabilities this weekend," Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. "But we learned the lesson that it’s tough going into a quality opponent’s place and coming away with a couple of wins. Our goal was to win two out of three, but we came up a little short."
UCSB jumped all over the Spartans in the first game of the series, scoring three runs in the first inning, two coming on first baseman Tyler Von Schell’s first home run of the season, to take a 3-0 lead. Santa Barbara tacked on two more runs in the third inning to take a commanding 5-0 lead.
The Gauchos exploded for five more runs in the fourth inning, with Von Schell blasting his second-round tripper of the game, this one a two-run bomb over the center field fence.
Santa Barbara ended up pounding out 19 hits en route to a victory.
The beneficiary of the Gauchos’ offensive outburst was starting pitcher James Garcia. Garcia, making his first Division I start, pitched seven strong innings, allowing only four runs while striking out seven.
"[James] has been throwing that way all fall," senior third baseman Dave Molidor said. "He’s our number one guy. He throws strikes and nobody ever really hits him hard."
Things turned around quickly in the second game of the series, with the Spartans roaring out to an early 8-3 lead. Gauchos starting pitcher Rylie Ogle pitched well, but five errors led to four unearned San Jose State runs.
Fielding proved to be a major problem for UCSB, which finished the three-game set with 12 errors, compared to only two for San Jose State. The errors were due in part to a field that Brontsema described as "terrible" and Molidor described as "treacherous." Yet the Gauchos were reluctant to blame the field conditions for their defensive lapses.
"Our defense is a weak point right now," second baseman Chad Peshke said. "A lot of it had to do with me and Jeff [Bannon] being hurt [during the off-season], but our fielding needs work and we’ll take care of that."
The Gauchos were nearly able to overcome their fielding woes, climbing back into the game thanks to their potent offense. Santa Barbara rallied in the eighth inning with five hits, getting an RBI single from Molidor and an RBI double from Von Schell to cut the Spartan lead to 8-5. Sophomore outfielder Ryan Spilborghs followed that up with a two-RBI triple of his own, as the Gauchos pulled to within one run. However, the Gauchos couldn’t complete the comeback, and were sent down in order in their side of the ninth.
In the rubber match of the series, San Jose State displayed a potent offense of their own, erupting with 24 hits, including three home runs, on their way to clobbering UCSB, 23-10.
Early on it looked as though the Gauchos were going to run away with the victory, using a three-run bomb from senior catcher Donovan Warrecker to build an 8-2 lead. But SJSU quickly went to work on Gaucho starting pitcher Jim Bullard, scoring nine runs in the third inning, and the Spartans took an 11-8 lead. San Jose State was only getting started, however, and knocked around five Gaucho relief pitchers for the final 12 runs.
"We did not play to our potential," Brontsema said. "But we still almost came away with two victories. We still feel good about what we were able to do, and it’s a 55-game season, which gives us time to improve."