The UCSB baseball team rolls into Cal Poly this weekend, coasting on the fumes of pride.
The Gauchos will try to tame the Mustangs in what will be their final series of the season. Santa Barbara (21-31 and 7-14 in the Big West) will have the chance to derail its old foes, who are 28-28-1 and 13-8. Cal Poly currently stands tied for second in the Big West and will vie for a shot at regionals.
UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema feels he can provoke his team by reminding the players of some of last year’s series losses that tainted last year’s banner season.
“They’re in the hunt,” Brontsema said. “This is a very important series for them. It’s a chance for their best finish ever.”
Senior infielder Dave Licht, who has been finishing the season on a tear, hopes that his team can continue its recent success and finish the season by winning its third consecutive conference series.
“We definitely want to go in there and beat them up a little bit,” Licht said.
The Gauchos are additionally motivated by the knowledge that this will be the final appearances for Licht and fellow seniors James Garcia, Matt Moran, Rob More, R. J. Smith and Jeremy Sugarman.
The remedy for the pain of losing so many important players will hopefully be furnished by UCSB’s wave of talented young players.
This weekend, freshman slugger Matt Wilkerson hopes to add to his amazing Big West Conference home-run record of 16. Should he hit two or more dingers, he would eclipse the all-time UCSB record of 17.
Accomplishing the feat will be difficult against a Cal Poly pitching staff that has been hot of late and an offense that has been even more blistering.
The teams have split their only two meetings of the season thus far, with UCSB taking the first 11-4 and dropping the second 8-1.
Santa Barbara is confident that if it plays according to its strengths, it can seize the series and ruin the Mustangs’ upstart season.
“We never liked Cal Poly,” junior center fielder Ryan Spilborghs said. “They’re our rivals – I’d love to knock them out.”
Spilborghs, who leads all Gauchos with 55 runs, five triples and 38 walks, may be playing in his farewell series as well.
“Most likely, I’ll get drafted, and this may be my last weekend [at UCSB],” Spilborghs said. “It’s been my dream to play professional baseball.”