A future Cooperstown resident may coach San Diego State, but he won’t be the one digging into the batter’s box against the Gauchos.
The UCSB baseball team opens its season this weekend by hosting a three-game series starting today at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Santa Barbara will face the Aztecs, a team coached by former Major League All-Star Tony Gwynn. The Gauchos expect a competitive series but are not intimidated by the presence of a future Hall-of-Famer.
“They’re beatable,” Gauchos ace and today’s starter junior Matt Vasquez said. “They’re not some magical team just because they have a Hall of Fame coach.”
The junior hurler’s sentiments were echoed by sophomore second baseman Chris Malec, who, along with freshman All-American Matt Wilkerson, will be depended upon to launch the offense.
“They’ve got a good hitting team, but they’re just another college baseball team,” Malec said. “We just have to depend on our abilities, and we’ll be fine.”
Yet the Gauchos will have to rely on pitching. Vasquez, who earned praise from Gwynn, will square off against junior flame-thrower Mike Moat.
“Vasquez is their Friday night guy,” Gwynn said. “Scouts are raving about him already.”
Following UCSB’s touted ace will be senior Sean Thompson on Saturday against SDSU senior Joe Carque. Eric Posthumus, another returning freshman All-American, will start on Sunday. The pitchers must shut down an Aztec team that boasts two preseason All-Americans in junior center fielder Anthony Gwynn and junior third baseman Chad Corona.
“They have a good team, especially offensively,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “They’ve got the two All-Americans, and they’ve got a transfer from Alabama [second baseman Peter Stonard] who can really hit. They’ll be hungry, and it’ll be a good challenge for us. We’re going to need to pitch, handle the excitement of opening day and stay calm.”
The Aztecs sit at 0-3, swept by at national power Arizona State last weekend. However, SDSU gained some confidence to eliminate first game jitters.
“We played the #8 team in the country really tough,” Gwynn said. “We had opportunities to win Friday and Saturday, and we didn’t.”
If the Gauchos’ leaders are right, the going will not get easier for the Aztecs.
“If we go out and play our game,” Vasquez said, “I’m expecting to win.”
Saturday’s and Sunday’s games both start at 1 p.m.