There’s nothing like a little confidence booster to start the season off right.
Following Tuesday’s 16-1 clobbering of Westmont the UCSB baseball team (1-0 overall) faces its first test when San Jose State visits Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for the first three game series of the year.
“It’s been a long fall and winter and we’re all really excited to play someone else besides ourselves for once,” junior pitcher Andy Graham said.
Graham and senior pitcher Steve Morlock return as Gaucho weekend starters. Morlock allowed three runs in six innings against the Spartans when the two met in San Jose last year while Graham was sensational, holding San Jose State to one run over seven innings. The Gauchos took two of three in the series.
“We know their coaching staff and tendencies,” Graham said. “They got a bunch of new guys so we’ll have to react to what they do.”
Stepping into the third spot in the rotation for injured senior Michael Martin will be junior Brian Tracy. The Claremont native appeared in 16 games and posted a 2-3 record last season and threw a scoreless inning in relief in the UCSB opener.
“I’m more excited than nervous, but I have started games here before and I think we’re ready as a team,” Tracy said. “I think that what we’ve seen through the fall has been very competitive and very positive.”
Into town comes a Spartan team (1-2 overall) that won its opener before dropping two straight, and the series, to Cal Poly last weekend.
Leading San Jose State is pitcher Branden Dewing (1-0 overall), the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week last week. Dewing held Cal Poly to four hits in a complete game shutout in the Spartan season opener. Dewing joins Gaucho junior shortstop Chris Valaika on the Wallace Watch List and will face off with Graham in the series opener on Friday.
“I don’t take a different attitude toward it,” Graham said. “I’m not worrying about who I’m pitching against.”
The Santa Barbara offense looks to continue its hot hitting after the 17-hit attack against Westmont. Eleven Gauchos registered hits in the opener and 11 of the hits were from players not with the squad last year.
“Its important for the guys confidence to feel comfortable,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “The biggest thing with a new guy is to make them feel like they belong here, that they can play here.”
The UCSB bullpen showcased some of its younger members Tuesday. Freshmen Anthony Martin, Brandt Hill, and Clayton Edwards each threw a scoreless inning in the win against the Warriors. The three proved a bit jittery as each walked at least one batter.
“I don’t anticipate walks being a problem,” Brontsema said. “A little of it was nerves and part was mechanical issues, but these issues will be straightened out as the season goes on.”
The Gauchos are in the midst of a season-opening seven-game homestand from which they look to start off in the right direction.
The weekend’s first pitch is comes today at 2:00 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.