Baseball is a game of numbers, statistics and percentages, but in order to be successful a team must execute more often than its opponent.

The UCSB baseball team (18-22, 1-8 in the Big West) did just that for its first 31 games of the season. Since April 4, however, the Gauchos have lost nine consecutive games.

In the nine games following its conference opening victory over Irvine, Santa Barbara has screeched to a collective .236 batting average while opponents are hitting .372. The Gaucho pitching staff has mounted a huge 9.73 ERA in those games while opposing pitchers have only allowed a 4.71 mark. UCSB has also committed 10 more errors than its opponents, averaging two per game during the losing streak.

“Two weeks ago we thought we had a pretty good team,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “I don’t think that should change. We just haven’t played well against some very good teams.”

The Gauchos have squared off against three of the toughest teams in the nation over the last three weeks. Riverside, who sent UCSB to its third, fourth and fifth consecutive losses, was ranked #35 in the nation just two weeks before the teams met. Cal State Fullerton, who swept the Gauchos last weekend, is also currently the #1 team in the nation. Tuesday was UCSB’s most recent defeat and came at the hands of USC, a pre-season favorite to win the Pac-10.

And unfortunately for Santa Barbara, the schedule will not get any easier when #5 Long Beach State rolls into town at 2 p.m. today for a three-game series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

The Dirtbags (27-12, 7-2) currently sit alone in second place in the Big West and are in the midst of a five-game winning streak. LBSU swept Cal Poly last weekend at home before trouncing Loyola Marymount 11-5 in a non-conference game Tuesday.

The 49ers will be playing games number two, three and four of its current eight-game road trip against the Gauchos, whom they have beaten 39 times since 1989. The Dirtbags lead the all-time series against UCSB, 55-49.

“We know they are going to pitch outstanding,” sophomore left-hander Sean Thompson said. “Our pitching staff is going to have to step up because our offense has not been getting it done lately.”

LBSU pitchers currently hold a 3.18 ERA and are led by junior lefty Abe Alvarez’ 2.11 mark and sophomore right-hander Jered Weaver’s 2.04. Baseball America’s John Manual recently labeled Alvarez (8-0) and Weaver (8-3), “As good as it gets.” The duo will start Friday’s and Saturday’s games and freshman southpaw Cesar Ramos (2-4, 3.23 ERA) will take the game ball on Sunday.

UCSB will counter with its fifth different weekend pitching rotation used this year. Junior Matt Vasquez (2-4) will pitch Friday and freshman Michael Martin (2-1) will make his fourth start of the year Saturday. Thompson (5-4) will get the starting nod in the finale.

Saturday’s and Sunday’s games begin at 1 p.m.