Winning two out of three games in a series is nice, but sweeping the opposition is what sets a first-place team apart from the also-rans.
The UCSB baseball team is aware of that fact, and beginning this weekend against Pacific, the Gauchos must find a way to win all three games in a series. The inability to bring out the brooms has left Santa Barbara (29-11, 4-2 in the Big West) standing in third place in the Big West, behind Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. If the Gauchos are to make a run at the conference title, they must feast on the lower echelon teams, such as the Tigers.
“We feel that it’s time to make up some ground,” UCSB pitching Coach Tom Myers said. “But Pacific is no pushover. The next four weeks are going to be very difficult, and we have to bring our ‘A’ game to the field every day.”
Santa Barbara is coming off of a series victory over Sacramento State, which included an impressive 10-inning victory in the series’ third game. But the real story against the Hornets was senior designated hitter Mike Kolbach. The lefty terrorized Sac State, going 9-14 with four RBI’s and four runs scored.
The emergence of Kolbach, who was named Big West Player of the Week, adds another dimension to an already formidable Gaucho lineup. Santa Barbara is hitting a robust .347 on the season. UCSB also has the top three hitters in the Big West in Kolbach, senior third baseman Dave Molidor (.415) and sophomore center fielder Skip Schumaker (.403).
“Everybody in the lineup has the potential to take over the game,” Kolbach said. “It’s good to see that if someone struggles, then someone else can pick him up. We have something pretty special here.”
Santa Barbara will send the usual trio of junior James Garcia, senior Rylie Ogle and sophomore Jim Bullard to the mound against UOP. Ogle was unable to pitch in the previous series due to shoulder irritation, but Myers expects Ogle to reclaim his spot in the rotation this weekend.
“[Ogle] had a little bit of tenderness in his shoulder,” Myers said. “The week off really benefited him. He pitched on the side this week, and I don’t see any problems with him pitching this weekend.”
UCSB will need to be hitting on all cylinders as it heads into the most important part of its schedule. Following the series with Pacific, the Gauchos will face Long Beach State and Fullerton in a consecutive three-game series. But first, Santa Barbara must dispose of the Tigers.
“We won’t be a successful team if we look ahead,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “UOP has a tough pitching staff that we really respect. I know it’s a clichŽ, but we just try to take it one game at a time.”