With the temperature creeping up towards acceptable standards for baseball, the UCSB baseball team’s bats caught fire.
After scoring only 13 runs in their entire three-game opening series against LMU over the weekend, the Gauchos exploded for 12 runs on 14 hits against BYU on Monday, pounding the Cougars by a score of 12-5. The offensive explosion at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium was led by freshman second baseman Chris Malec, who had four hits in four at-bats, driving in three of Santa Barbara’s runs.
“He’s a Chad Peshke-type player. He’s an offensive second baseman who can play defense as well,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said of Malec. “He does it on both sides of the plate, and he comes to work everyday.”
Another freshman, Eric Posthumus, got the win for the Gauchos, pitching six strong innings. He gave up two runs, only one earned, and struck out seven.
“That’s what we’ve gotten from him since day one,” Brontsema said. “He doesn’t look real overpowering, but he locates and he competes.”
UCSB wasted no time in eviscerating the Cougars, as yet another freshman, third baseman Matt Wilkerson, ripped a two-run triple over the center fielder’s head to score the Gauchos first two runs of the afternoon. Malec then singled Wilkerson in to extend their lead to 3-1.
However, the offense really exploded in the third inning, as Santa Barbara scored five runs, all with two outs, against BYU starter Jacob Chrisman. Right fielder Ryan Spilborghs was on base with two outs when Chrisman lost his control. He hit Malec with a pitch and then walked junior first baseman Josh McCanne to load the bases. Another walk to sophomore catcher Taylor Vogt forced in a run, making it 4-2, and junior infielder Josh Fulton and sophomore infielder Nate Sutton sandwiched two run singles around another walk, sending the Cougar’s starter off to the showers. Santa Barbara would go on to post multiple runs in the fourth and fifth innings, with two runs in each frame pushing its advantage to12-2. The highlight was a two-run triple by Malec. The Cougars were able to score three times in the final innings, but the deficit proved to be insurmountable.
“We needed to get our offense going,” senior outfielder R.J. Smith said. “Our freshman guys, Wilkerson and Malec, played real well. It’s good to have young guys who aren’t intimidated by the college game. They’re both hitting around .500.Hopefully we can keep it going.”
The offense’s coming-out party was aided by a BYU defense that was at times comedically inept. The Cougars committed three errors and had a variety of miscues.
“The walks helped us, and so did the ground balls they kicked,” Brontsema said. “We swung the bats better and we took advantage of their mistakes.”
The win evened UCSB’s record to 2-2, while BYU dropped to 1-6. The 14 hits raised Santa Barbara’s team batting average from .209 to .256.
The Gauchos will resume play on Feb. 8, when they will travel to Santa Clara for a three-game weekend series. The next home game will be on Friday, Feb. 15 against San Jose State.