While other students lounged in the exotic locales of Cabo San Lucas and Costa Rica, the only break the UCSB baseball team got was in the batter’s box. The Gauchos went 6-1 during their Spring Break, earning their first series sweep of the season last weekend at home against Oral Roberts.
Santa Barbara (14-11) finally got back on track over the weekend after being swept twice by Pac-10 schools Oregon State and Washington.
UCSB pushed its win streak to five, defeating the Golden Eagles 6-4 on Thursday, 7-2 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday.
Quality pitching was the key this weekend for the Gauchos. The three weekend starters, sophomore Andy Graham, and juniors Michael Martin and Steve Morlock all earned wins while the bullpen did not allow a run in 8.1 innings combined.
“We’ve said it all along that we felt that our pitching was going to be our strength,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Our pitchers really picked us up today. They really picked us up all weekend.”
Morlock went five strong Saturday, allowing just two earned runs and three hits to earn his second win of the week. Senior reliever Loren Fraser allowed three hits and left two on in the eighth for senior closer Alex McRobbie. McRobbie ended the inning and finished the game, earning his sixth save of the season.
Senior right fielder Matt Wilkerson gave the pitching staff all the runs they needed, blasting a two-run shot to complete a three-run third inning. The home run, Wilkerson’s sixth of the season, moves him to third on the UCSB all-time list with 35 in his career. Wilkerson finished the day going 2-3 with three RBI.
“When we struggle to score runs, it’s big for a guy like [Wilkerson] to step up,” Brontsema said. “We killed ourselves [in the eighth] inning and he really picked us up.”
With sophomore shortstop Chris Valaika out for the season with a knee injury, Santa Barbara is fielding a revamped infield, featuring freshman Alden Carrithers at second base. Carrithers picked up two RBI and two runs on two hits, helping Martin to his third victory of the season Friday.
Despite giving up four runs Thursday, Graham earned his fourth win of the season. With his three RBI and 2-4 performance at the plate, senior shortstop Chris Malec led the Gauchos to the win, ending the Golden Eagles’ six-game winning streak.
UCSB picked up four victories in five home games before last weekend’s sweep. The Gauchos took two of three from Loyola Marymount on March 11-13 before taking a 4-2 victory over Stony Brook on March 21.
With their first sweep behind them, the Gauchos will play one more game today at Cal Poly before jumping into the Big West season next weekend.
UCSB expects to throw midweek starter Brian Tracy against the Mustangs, although a number of bullpen pitchers should see time. So far, Santa Barbara is 5-6 on the road this season, while the Mustangs have won five of 10 at home this year.
First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Baggett Stadium in San Luis Obispo.