When most people think of South Bend, Ind., only one thing comes to mind: Notre Dame football. The school is rich with gridiron history, ranging from the four horsemen to Joe Montana to Rickey Watters.
But this weekend, the UCSB baseball team will be looking to make a little history of its own in South Bend, not in the trenches, but on the diamond.
For the first time since 1996, the Gauchos will be in the field of 64, looking to win the NCAA Title. UCSB was awarded the #2 seed in the region hosted by Notre Dame, and will open tournament play this Friday against Florida International of the Sun Belt Conference.
“It’s great to get a two seed,” senior shortstop Jeff Bannon said. “It gives us an advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It’s not surprising [to get a two seed] because we’ve played well all year.”
The Gauchos are coming off of a disappointing weekend that saw them lose two out of three games to Cal Poly, costing UCSB the Big West championship. The eventual Big West champs, Cal State Fullerton earned the #1 seed in the entire tournament. But despite falling short of the conference title, Santa Barbara remains confident that it can make some noise in South Bend.
Much of the Gauchos success this season has been due to the brilliant pitching of junior starter James Garcia. As Santa Barbara’s #1 starter, Garcia would normally get the call Friday, but that may not be the case this weekend. The righty is still recovering from an altercation with the police early Saturday morning, and his status for the Gauchos’ next game is unclear.
No matter who is on the hill this Friday, the Gauchos are excited about playing in the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve talked all year about how we wanted to get shipped out,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “It’s going to hurt our fan base, but it’s something we are all looking forward to. Now we just have to take care of business.”