Currently locked into a five-game losing streak, UCSB will open a three-game series today against #2 Cal State Fullerton at Goodwin Field.
After giving up 32 runs, including 18 in one game, against UC Riverside last weekend, the Gauchos (18-18, 1-5 in the Big West) know that there is only one thing left to do.
“We need to attack them,” UCSB Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal said. “We can’t back down or give them free bases such as walks or hit batters. And then we’ve got to do a good job of executing on defense.”
Fullerton (31-8, 5-1), one of three teams from the Big West to make the postseason in 2002, has showed the nation that it is worthy of another playoff campaign this season. As a perennial national contender, Head Coach George Horton’s squad is collectively batting .333 and has pitched its way to a scrawny 2.51 ERA.
“We definitely have our work cut out for us,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We’re coming off a rough weekend so we’re probably mentally fragile. But I’m hoping that our guys answer the challenge.”
The series will begin at 7 p.m. tonight when UCSB senior southpaw Sean Thompson (5-3, 4.66 ERA) takes the game ball against Fullerton’s junior right-hander Wes Littleton (4-1). Littleton, fresh off of a three-week suspension for violating team rules, has posted a 3.60 ERA in seven previous starts.
On Friday, UCSB will send sophomore Eric Posthumus to the mound. The Titans will counter with right-hander Dustin Miller (7-1). The freshman, currently the team leader in victories, has a 2.75 ERA and a one-to-one strikeout to inning ratio.
Saturday’s series finale will feature the return of Santa Barbara right-hander Matt Vasquez (2-3, 5.30 ERA) to the starting rotation. The junior was moved to the bullpen last weekend in a pitching staff shakeup that had obvious negative results. Junior Jason Windsor (5-1) will take the hill for Fullerton. The right-hander has a microscopic 1.42 ERA and has held opponents to a .190 batting average.
“Their pitching is going to be a real challenge, especially because we’re not swinging the bats at all,” Brontsema said.
Fullerton also boasts freshman outfielder Danny Dorn, the reigning Big West Player of the Week. Dorn is hitting .397 after knocking in 12 RBI last week, including eight in one game against Loyola Marymount. He also homered Tuesday night against UCLA.
“One of the things that I think Fullerton is traditionally great at is one through nine in their lineup, they all do things that can beat you,” Brontsema said. “You can’t just focus on one guy. The key thing for us is to keep the first guy of the inning off the bases.”
Junior Gaucho catcher Chad Ziemendorf said last week was a fluke and UCSB is ready to contend.
“First of all, this is going to be a pretty fun weekend,” he said. “I think our pitchers are more than capable of taking it to these guys. You need a championship mindset that you’re going to go out there and stick it to them no matter what the papers are saying.”