Another year came and another year went at the at the Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, and all-in-all, the year was punctuated more by successes than failures.
UCSB baseball Head Coach Bob Brontsema led the Gaucho unit to its highest win total since 2001 while registering two win streaks of eight games or more. Santa Barbara finished tied for fourth in a league with absolute heavyweights at the top and proved it could play with the best, going 5-4 against top-25 opponents.
Rising to the occasion like the Gauchos did so many times this season is a tribute to veteran leadership, exemplified by seniors Nate Sutton, Taylor Vogt, Ivan Rodriguez, Greg Powers, Brian Adams, Rich Sorenson and Aaron Jones. These Gauchos will leave the program in a state of success after what can only be classified as a memorable 2004 season.
Loren Fraser and the rest of the Gaucho relief staff will not soon forget going into Long Beach and sweeping the #4 Dirtbags.
Junior second baseman Chris Malec surely will not forget his heroic, game-tying grand slam off Long Beach ace Jared Weaver in the top of the eighth. Hits like that do not come too often, but they seemed to come in bunches this year.
There was Vogt’s double to the center-field fence to even the score in the bottom of the eighth against Big West champion Cal State Fullerton. And who can forget junior outfielder Matt Wilkerson’s ensuing two-run, go-ahead single. These hits became the backbreakers for Fullerton, and the loss was the first of just two in the Big West.
Without the bad times, though, there is no yardstick for measuring the good times. While the Gauchos should hold tightly to the preceding memories, what broke their backs should be kept closest to memory if they are to build on this season next year.
UCSB put itself in a very precarious position at the start of league play after being swept by Riverside in its own building. From then on, the quest to the top was an uphill battle.
After a sturdy ascension, the Gauchos shot themselves in the foot again, dropping a crucial three-game series to a mediocre-at-best University of the Pacific. Losing two of three the next week proved to be the fatal blow for the Gauchos, who were still optimistic for an at-large post season berth.
Depending on how the 2004 Amateur Draft pans out for Santa Barbara’s Major League prospects, the makeup of the 2005 Gauchos is unclear. One fact does remain though: The Gauchos will simply not be the same without their core seniors.