This weekend the UCSB baseball team will be hoping to ride the Waves to victory.
The Gauchos (9-7) open a three-game series against Pepperdine (8-10) Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Santa Barbara will be trying to bounce back from a disappointing 12-7 loss to UCLA last Tuesday, a game in which freshman designated hitter Matt Wilkerson belted three home runs to raise his team-leading total to seven.
“He worked real hard on his swing on his off day,” UCSB Head Coach Brontsema said, “and it showed immediate results”.
Wilkerson has combined to ignite an explosive offense with freshman second baseman Chris Malec, the Gauchos’ team leader with twenty four RBIs, and junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs, who leads the team with a sweltering .438 average.
“We work a lot outside of practice,” Wilkerson said of the freshmen duo. “The coaches have helped us know what to expect. Having Spilly hitting in front of us helps.”
While Santa Barbara has been pleasantly surprised by its prolific offensive production, the team’s pitching, originally thought to be their strength, has been a mixed bag.
Sophomore All-American Matt Vasquez has confounded opposing batters in compiling a 3-1 record with a phenomenal 2.86 ERA, but senior James Garcia (0-3), expected to lead the pitching staff, has struggled. Garcia will be moved to the bullpen this weekend in hopes that he can work out his troubles while simultaneously providing a quality arm for the late innings.
“Vasquez has been lights out,” Garcia said. “That’s what we expect from all of our starters. This weekend I’ll be there for the late innings in close games, but I expect to be back in the rotation soon.”
In Pepperdine, the Gauchos will be facing another in a series of teams that look very similar to themselves.
“They’re well coached,” Brontsema said. “They pitch and play about as well as anybody, but they lost guys to the draft and they’re working some new guys in. The bottom line is, we have to worry about ourselves. We need to pitch, play defense and execute on offense.”
The teams will travel to Malibu for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday before returning to UCSB to close out the series on Sunday, also at 1 p.m.