A seven-game losing streak can be quite a pickle, and when the UCSB baseball team hosts #11 Long Beach this weekend in a three-game series, the Gauchos will have their gloves full trying to fend off the 49ers’ attempts to further sour UCSB’s sluggish season.
Long Beach (32-14 overall, 10-2 in the Big West) boasts one of the best pitching staffs in the country. Collectively, Long Beach sports the nation’s top team ERA at 2.07. Additionally, all three members of its starting rotation have garnered a Big West Pitcher of the Week award this season.
The Gauchos (19-25, 1-8 Big West), who stole three from the 49ers at Long Beach in last year’s matchup, have been swept in their last two series against Fullerton and Cal Poly. Last weekend, Fullerton outscored the Gauchos 27-8.
“We’ve been struggling recently, but we’re ready to break out of our slump no matter what team we’re playing,” junior first baseman Bill Rowe said. “The fact that we swept [Long Beach] last year is a good reminder that they aren’t unbeatable.”
Having recorded only one win thus far in the Big West Conference season, the Gauchos are just looking for runs for their pitching staff.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We’ve had a couple good days of practice and we’re looking to play solid defensively. Our pitching is going to have to be effective, but we’re also going to have to find a way to score some runs. Our [starting rotation] has the capability, but we’re going to have to find a way to be above the averages.”
Santa Barbara will have to add some pop to its swings this weekend to earn a single victory. The Long Beach starting rotation of Cesar Ramos, Marco Estrada and Jared Hughes has combined for a 23-6 record on the season.
“[Long Beach] also has phenomenal pitching and one of the top ERAs in the country,” Brontsema said. “They have a 2.07 ERA and that is just unheard of. It’s going to be a challenge for us because we haven’t been a great offensive team this year. We’re trying to get the bats rolling and hopefully they’ll be able to get on track; we just need to have good at-bats.”
Defense will also be an issue for Santa Barbara. The Gauchos have committed 14 errors in their current losing skid, off of which opponents have scored 24 runs.
“There are just a lot of guys that aren’t comfortable out there yet,” Rowe said. “They just need to relax and focus on playing their game.”
First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, and Saturday’s and Sunday’s games will begin at 1 p.m.