Within one strike away of capturing its first series sweep of the season last week against University of the Pacific, the UCSB baseball team hopes to get it right this time.
The Gauchos hope to make their final home series of the season this weekend at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium a memorable one against lowly Sacramento State, the worst team in the conference.
Although the Hornets (19-31, 1-17 in the Big West) are firmly entrenched in last place, Santa Barbara will refuse to take them lightly.
“We just have to repeat what we did last weekend,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We’re not looking at this like it’s going to be three wins for us. We’d better have respect for them.”
Sacramento State has improved recently, going 4-4 in its last eight games.
“We’re only a few games ahead of them,” Brontsema said. “They have struggled, but they’ve been hot of late, and they’re playing as well as they’ve played all year.”
The Hornets, last in the Big West in virtually every offensive category, still boast the conference leader in home runs, Chris Kinsey (.314, 16 HR, 53 RBI).
“We need to pitch well again this weekend,” Brontsema said.
UCSB (19-30, 5-13) must also contend with workhorse pitchers Jeff Groeger (6-7, 4.62 ERA) and Kevin Marzion (2-6, 4.22).
“It doesn’t matter about them; it matters about us,” senior shortstop Dave Licht said. “If we play the way we know we can, we can beat anybody.”
Brontsema agrees that if his team does not beat itself, it can beat anybody.
“We pitched extremely well last weekend,” Brontsema said. “We’re hoping we can continue that. We’re just trying to get better and finish strong. We’re trying to go out and do the little things well. We haven’t been doing that this year. When we have, though, we’ve won.”
Licht and fellow seniors Andy Campanella, James Garcia, Matt Moran, Rob More, R.J. Smith and Jeremy Sugarman will be honored in a Senior Day pre-game ceremony on Sunday. If all goes to plan, the Gauchos will be going for the series victory that day.
Sophomore standout Matt Vasquez, scheduled to pitch on Sunday, feels he is just the man for the task.
“As a team, we have good odds of going in there with me being the guy pitching for the series win,” Vasquez said. “I’ll go in there and shut the door on them.”
UCSB hopes it can duplicate the dominance against the Tigers last weekend, where the team cranked out 44 hits and 31 runs while compiling a miniscule 1.69 ERA.
“We feel really good about ourselves right now,” junior first baseman Josh McCanne said. “It was good for our confidence to come back, especially after that terrible loss on Friday. The pitching had been inconsistent, but it was good last weekend. It was nice to see it all come together.”
The Gauchos know that if they can put together a solid, all-around game, they comprise a formidable threat.
“I think everything is finally falling into place,” Vasquez said.