UCSB baseball renews the Central Coast rivalry with Cal Poly today at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The Mustangs come to town for the first of two midweek games between the teams in the next two weeks as part of a home-home nonconference set.
The Gauchos (7-6) suffered their first series this past weekend to Oregon State. After getting off to a quick 6-2 start, the Mustangs have dropped six of their last 10.
UCSB faltered for the first time last weekend after taking its first three series. Cal Poly will bring another challenge to the Gauchos, who have lost four straight. The Mustangs (10-8) were ranked #38 in Baseball America’s Preseason Top 50 poll and will provide a preview of the upcoming Big West season.
“[Cal Poly] started hot. They’ve cooled down a bit, though. They haven’t been pitching as well as they did early on,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We know they’re a good club, and we’ll have to do a lot of things well to beat them.”
Santa Barbara will bring the big bats of senior third baseman Dave Figoni and junior first baseman Bill Rowe. Figoni leads the Gauchos with a .345 batting average and 14 runs scored. Rowe has driven in 13 runs while batting .312. Meanwhile, senior right fielder Matt Wilkerson has brought home 16 runs to lead the squad.
“This is a game that we’ve got to win. [Brontsema] said that we are going in the wrong direction right now,” Figoni said. “It’s a game where we can definitely change our direction. This is an important game to win.”
Experience isn’t everything; freshman designated hitter Matt Aidem has earned his six starts by swinging the bat well. In seven games, Aidem has gone 10 for 20 at the plate, driving in five and scoring five.
Cal Poly plans to throw freshman right-hander Evan Reed today. Reed has made one appearance, giving up one run in one inning of work.
The Gauchos’ regular midweek starter sophomore Brian Tracy will be on the mound to counter Reed. In his four appearances, Tracy is 1-1 in one start. Tracy has given up three earned runs in nine innings of work and took the loss in Saturday’s game against Oregon State.
Tracy will be faced with the Mustangs’ offensive duo of junior outfielder Jimmy Van Ostrand and outfielder Matt Cooper, who are both batting .328 on the season. Cooper is tied for the team lead with 12 runs scored. Junior infielder Bret Berglund is batting .319 and is tops on the team with 17 runs batted in.
Cal Poly enters the game after having lost the last two games of last weekend’s series with Santa Clara. Today’s matchup is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The two teams will meet again next week at Baggett Stadium in San Luis Obispo.