In life, it’s always good to look ahead to the future, and oddly enough, UCSB baseball’s future – along with the cows and sheep – lies in Davis, Calif.
The Gauchos (16-14 overall, 1-2 in the Big West) travel north this weekend to face Davis in a preview of what’s to come in Big West Conference baseball. The Aggies will officially enter the conference in the 2007-08 school year but are playing full Big West schedules over the next three years to complete their move up from Division II.
The two teams have only met twice in the past – most recently in 1966 – with each team taking one game. The Aggies (16-12) took two out of three from local rival Sacramento State last weekend before dropping an 11-2 decision to San Francisco on Tuesday.
“Right now we need wins,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “If we can get up there and win the series, that’s always the thing you want to do.”
After an ugly 20-6 win over Westmont on Tuesday, in which the Gauchos walked thirteen batters, Santa Barbara is looking to get its pitching staff back on track this weekend. The regular weekend rotation of juniors Michael Martin and Steve Morlock and sophomore Andy Graham may be shuffled this weekend. A sore back may keep Martin from his regularly scheduled start on Friday.
Graham currently leads the starters with four wins and a 3.38 ERA in seven starts. Last weekend, Graham took a loss against Pacific after allowing just two runs and four hits in 6.2 innings while striking out a season-high nine batters.
The weekend rotation will have to deal with a trio of potent Davis infielders in freshman second baseman Daniel Descalso, sophomore shortstop Brandon Oliver and junior first baseman Lukas Kirby. Descalso went 6-13 at the plate last weekend and boasts a .365 average alongside a 10-game hitting streak. Oliver and Kirby have combined to score 40 runs on the year.
“We’re going to have to play better to get a win [at Davis],” Brontsema said. “People are very confident when they play at home, so we’re going to have to play well. Plus, we’ve never played at their park, so that adds to the intrigue of this series.”
UCSB will need its hitters to step up to earn a series win against the Aggies. After managing just 12 runs over three games last weekend, the Gauchos will be looking for everyone in the lineup to contribute. Freshman designated hitter Matt Aidem leads the team with a .375 average, while seniors right fielder Matt Wilkerson and shortstop Chris Malec have 31 RBI and 28 runs scored, respectively.
The series is set to kick off today at 2:30 p.m. at Dobbins Baseball Complex in Davis. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.