For the UCSB baseball team, almost nothing could kick off the season better than a good thrashing of cross-town rival Westmont. The Gauchos (1-0 overall) got just that Tuesday, scoring eight runs in the first two innings en route to a 16-1 win over the Warriors.
Junior shortstop Chris Valaika got things started for Santa Barbara, belting a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall for a two run home run in his first at bat of the year and first since an injury left him out for the majority of last season.
“It felt great to finally get back out there,” Valaika said. “We’re happy to see all our young guys come in and get all the jitters out and hit well. It’s a good thing to put up 16 runs, especially in the first game.”
Valaika led the way with four RBI while sophomore second baseman and leadoff hitter Alden Carrithers reached base four times in five plate appearances with two hits and two walks.
The Gaucho newcomers contributed in their debuts as well. Junior first baseman Robbie Blauer was impressive coming up with three hits and knocking in one run. Along with Blauer, freshman third baseman Shane Carlson and junior right fielder Mario Lewis each tallied two hits.
“Shane Carlson had a great game at third base,” Valaika said. “Defensively he was phenomenal and he swung the bat pretty well. Robby Blauer is a great addition at first.”
After cooling off in the middle innings the UCSB offense came back to life in the bottom of the eighth, sending 12 men to the plate and scoring eight runs.
“We put the ball in play and cut down the number of strikeouts,” Blauer said. “We’re going to swing it this year.”
The pitching was nearly as dominant as the offense. Junior right hander Brian Fleming held the Warriors (1-5) to just one run in five innings while picking up his first win in his first start in a Gaucho uniform.
“It definitely was a lot of fun to finally get that win under the belt,” Fleming said. “I’ve waited for it for a couple of days.”
Fleming benefited from plenty of early UCSB offense as the Gauchos had already cruised to an 8-0 lead before he took the mound in the third inning.
“You still want to go up there and throw zeros, but it gives you a little more leeway to make good pitches when you have the lead,” Fleming said. “You don’t have to worry so much about throwing a perfect strike.”
After Fleming, four other Santa Barbara pitchers threw an inning each, including freshman Dos Pueblos High School graduate Brandt Hill and freshman Clayton Edwards.
“Other than the late walks we pitched great,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Our young guys got their feet wet and were able to compete and they were able to limit the damage done by our opponents after they gave up walks.”
One of the few bright spots for Westmont was senior pitcher Kevin Fouret who threw 4.1 scoreless innings in relief while allowing just one hit.
“We did a lot of things well,” Brontsema said. “Fleming was outstanding. No walks and he pounded the strike zone. Obviously our bats did well.”
UCSB hosts San Jose State for a three game series this weekend starting Friday at 2 p.m.