The UCSB baseball team, winner of four of its last five games, will embark on a stretch of eight games in 10 days. The opening game of the three game series with visiting Sacramento State University begins today at 2 p.m.
The Hornets (7-6) are led by Head Coach John Smith, in his 25th year, and are fresh off a thrilling come-from-behind victory over San Francisco State. Junior Chris Kinsey, who will pitch Saturday against the Gauchos and also hits third in the Hornets line-up, leads SSU. Kinsey is batting .263 with 12 RBI and two homeruns
“Kinsey was a guy that we actually recruited and liked a lot a few years back,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He’s a power arm guy with a power breaking ball, and he’s a good offensive player.”
Junior switch hitting outfielder Mikela Olsen, who hits cleanup behind Kinsey, leads Sacramento in six offensive categories, including batting average, slugging percentage and RBI.
UCSB (6-8) will send senior right-hander Sean Thompson (1-2) to the mound today to counter the SSU offense. Thompson has compiled a 6.55 ERA in 22 innings this season.
“Sac State is always a respectable team, and we’re not going to take them any lighter than someone else,” Thompson said. “We’re just going to play as hard as we can and go right after them.”
The Hornets will respond with their own right-hander in junior Marshall Plouffe (1-1).
Saturday’s contest will pit Gaucho sophomore right-hander Eric Posthumus (0-2) against Kinsey (1-2). Posthumus will attempt to rebound from his Feb. 22 outing, in which he gave up eight earned runs in one inning of work against Santa Clara University.
UCSB junior ace Matt Vasquez (1-1) will face the Hornets on Sunday. Vasquez, who has given up 10 earned runs in 22 innings for a 4.09 ERA, will face SSU senior right-hander Steve Cuckovich (2-0).
The Gauchos lead the all-time series against the Hornets 20-15, after taking two of three games from them in 2002. Saturday and Sunday’s games will start at 1 p.m., and all games will be played at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
With just over a quarter of the season done, the Gauchos have begun to take inventory of the young season.
“We’re definitely heading in the right direction,” sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson said. “We’re coming off a big series last weekend. We started off a little bit tentative with the bats, and we weren’t as aggressive as we have been. Now we’re coming out and getting after people and scoring early. We have to jump on people early and give our pitchers a lead.”
Brontsema is more concerned with getting hot at the right time.
“It’s a long season, and we don’t want to peak to soon,” the coach said. “We want to be playing our best baseball come conference time.”