Another day, another offensive pounding for a Gaucho opponent, and the forecast calls for more today.
Santa Barbara (22-12, 1-2 in the Big West) rocked Northridge (13-22, 0-3 in the Big West), 10-4, yesterday, using 12 hits and three costly CSUN errors to record its 12th win in 14 games. UCSB will face crosstown rival Westmont (7-29, 2-18 in the Golden State Athletic Conference) today at 2 p.m.
Gaucho junior right-hander Loren Fraser earned his fourth win of the season in his second starting assignment by hurling five innings, allowing just one run while striking out four Tuesday. The Matadors tallied that lone run in the top of the first inning, when Fraser plunked Northridge right fielder John Voita and then balked him over to second base. Matador left fielder Michael Paulk milked Fraser for eight pitches and a full count before punching a run-scoring single into right field to give his team a short-lived 1-0 lead.
Santa Barbara led off the bottom of the second inning with consecutive singles, setting up junior catcher Matt Kalafatis’ sacrifice bunt that scored freshman shortstop Chris Valaika from third base. Junior outfielder Matt Stevens was thrown out at third on the play and Kalafatis was also canned at third, attempting to steal to end the Gaucho scoring threat.
It was no matter, as Valaika stepped in with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning and knocked a two-run base hit into right field, one of three times that Valaika would bat in that situation. The young middle infielder grounded out in the fourth inning to leave three men on base, but laced another single to the right side in the sixth to give him a team-high four RBIs.
Valaika has played in every game and, with a three-for-five day, shot his average up to .331, second on the team.
“I just came out [to Santa Barbara] and wanted to play. I had no idea I’d have this kind of impact,” Valaika said. “I’m still a freshman, though, and I still have to pay my dues.”
UCSB sandwiched Valaika’s sixth-inning hit with a bases-loaded walk to sophomore left fielder/first baseman Bill Rowe and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by center fielder Brian Adams for a four-run inning, its biggest of the day. Kalafatis highlighted a two-run fourth with his second home run of the season, a solo shot to left-center off Northridge relief ace and losing pitcher Nathan Hochgesang.
Kalafatis has seen augmented playing time thanks to a starting lineup change that sent Rowe to left field, senior Greg Powers to first base, and senior Taylor Vogt to the designated hitter’s spot. The move took the defensive pressure off Vogt and transferred it to Kalafatis, who is handier with the mitt.
“I’m really liking it, the move has helped me out a lot,” Kalafatis said. “I’m getting more playing time and it seems to be working out for the team.”
Gaucho freshman righty Brian Tracy entered the game in the sixth inning and nearly lasted three innings, but served up a three-run gopher ball to Northridge right fielder Nick Mahin in the eighth. Senior southpaw Ivan Ramirez recorded the final out of the eighth and then handed the ball to senior closer Aaron Jones, who tossed a scoreless ninth.
The battered Warriors come to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium losers of 10 of their last 11 games and are without a .300 hitter or a winning pitcher. Junior designated hitter Dominick Paulso leads the squad with nine round-trippers and 31 RBIs. Though he is hitting .233, sophomore shortstop Jake Stretz has 10 strikeouts and seven walks on the year, the best ratio on the team.
UCSB junior right-hander Eric Posthumus will make his fourth appearance and second start against Westmont this season. The two teams met on Feb. 17 and the Gauchos walked away with a 22-7 victory.