After dropping two of three games over the weekend at San Jose State, the UCSB baseball team (3-7) will jump right back into action at 2 p.m. today at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium against a youthful UCLA squad.

The Gauchos are expected to send freshman righty Michael Martin to the hill to face the Bruins and their red-hot second baseman junior Preston Griffin. The junior from Long Beach, Calif., is batting .385 after hitting two homeruns and five RBIs against North Carolina State on Sunday.

Martin will make his first collegiate start today. The 6’2″ freshman from Red Bluff High has thrown three and a third innings in 2003 and has not yet allowed an earned run. He picked up a save in the Gauchos’ first game of the season and has struck out four.

UCLA finished with a disappointing 26-35 record in 2002 but boasts one of the most impressive recruiting classes in the nation. Ranked the fifth best incoming class in the country by Baseball America, the Bruins feature the 2002 Division 1 CIF Player of the Year, a three-time league MVP, a fifth-round draft pick, an American Baseball Coaches Association All-American and two players of the year.

Bruins’ Head Coach Gary Adams’ returns 13 pitchers from last year’s squad, including junior Casey Janssen, who has been splitting time at first base as well. Janssen finished his 2002 season with a team-best 4.06 ERA before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury in April. Senior Mike Kunes has emerged as the 2003 ace while posting a 3.44 ERA and picking up two victories in three starts.

The Gauchos can expect to see several of the Bruins’ weekend starters today, including Janssen and Kunes, for two to three innings apiece.

“UCLA is expecting this to be a strong year for them,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “So we expect them to be very good.” Los Angeles (5-5) took the first two games of its three-game weekend series against North Carolina State before dropping Sunday’s contest 9-6. Griffin’s two home runs were not enough to propel the Bruins back from a sixth inning 4-0 disadvantage. UCLA’s three pitchers allowed 12 hits and eight earned runs in the loss.

The Bruins lead the all-time series against the Gauchos, 31-50. The schools met twice last year with UCLA beating Santa Barbara both times by scores of 12-7 and 18-13. UCSB last posted a win against UCLA in 2001.

The Gauchos snapped their own four-game losing streak on Sunday with a wild 12-11 come-from-behind victory over the Spartans. UCSB scored six runs in the final two innings as freshman right-hander Steve Morlock (1-2) picked up his first collegiate victory in relief. Senior first baseman Josh McCanne led the Gauchos at the plate going 4-6 while senior left fielder Blair Havens, junior third baseman Nate Sutton and senior shortstop Josh Fulton had three hits each.

“[Sunday] was a huge win for us,” Brontsema said. “Friday wasn’t a really good day – we were mentally fragile. We were pretty down and we were battling ourselves.”

SJSU took the first two games of the weekend series 8-3 and 6-3, respectively. On Friday, the Spartans tagged Gaucho ace Matt Vasquez (1-1) for four first-inning runs before knocking him out of the game after just three and a third innings. Saturday’s contest looked brighter for the Gauchos as starter senior Sean Thompson (0-2) allowed only two hits into the seventh inning. Sophomore second baseman Chris Malec gave UCSB the lead in the second inning with his first home run of the season and the Gauchos entered the final three innings with a three-run lead. But Thompson and the often reliable Gaucho bullpen faltered in the seventh as the Spartans sent 12 batters to the plate and scored six runs, giving SJSU its own three-run cushion that it did not relinquish.

The news did not get any better for Santa Barbara after learning that Malec injured his knee during his homerun swing and will be out indefinitely. McCanne will also miss today’s game due to a hamstring injury he suffered on Sunday. Freshman first baseman Bill Rowe and sophomore infielder Matt Stevens will replace them on the right side of the infield against UCLA.

Today’s game marks the beginning of an eight-game Gaucho home stand that will feature UCLA, Santa Clara, Sacramento State and an exhibition against Keio University.