On the heels of a promising start, shown by a 2-1 series win at San Diego State this past weekend, the UCSB baseball team (2-1) travels to Cal State Northridge (4-2) this afternoon behind red-shirt freshman pitcher Andy Graham. The start will be Graham’s first in a UCSB uniform.

“Andy’s a fastball-curveball-changeup guy, throws about 84-88, can touch 90 at times, and he’s a pretty composed kid for a freshman and we’ll see what he can do [today],” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said.

Graham takes the mound in front of a defense that committed no errors in 27 innings of baseball over the weekend. Such solidity warrants just the type of confidence Graham and the UCSB pitching staff will need to be successful in 2004.

“I think it’s very important for all pitchers to have confidence in your defense cuz you’re not going to strike out everyone up there,” an excited Graham said. “Other than the one inning Saturday I think our defense was flawless.”

Today, the Gauchos will take virtually the same lineup south to Northridge that scored 12 runs over the weekend. Sophomore infielder Bill Rowe led the swinging for UCSB, going 5 for 13 at SDSU while sophomore outfielder Matt Emerick clutched four runs in over three days.

The two teams find themselves on a similar front, both primed after a season of rebuilding. Last year warranted a little more Gaucho optimism, though, as Northridge managed to go only 14-42, one year removed from capturing the Big West.

UCSB owned Northridge last year, going 3-1 against the Matadors, a rare claim for last season’s Gauchos.

This year’s Matadors should prove to be a much improved squad from the doldrums of last season. Already, Northridge has shown signs of progress, sweeping San Diego and dispensing of Hawaii this past weekend twice out of three chances.

“They had a rebuilding year last year and lost a lot of players off their Big West championship team. They had some good young pitchers last year that are pitching very well for them right now,” Brontsema said.

Strangely, even though Northridge is a Big West foe, the game will count as a non-conference contest.

“Both of us were looking to pick up some games for our non-conference schedule. We’ve also got some games with Cal Poly. It just makes sense; we’re close and they’re competitive,” Brontsema said.