After opening the season with a six-game homestand, the UCSB baseball team hits the road for the first time in 2006. The Gauchos (3-3 overall) head to Berkeley to take on Cal for a three-game series this weekend.
“We’re all really excited to get out of I.V. and go play a Pac-10 team,” junior pitcher Brian Tracy said. “It’s especially exciting for the young guys.”
Junior right-handers Tracy, Alex Graham and Bryan Fleming will take the mound against the Golden Bears (3-5). In his debut against San Jose State Graham pitched well, holding the Spartans to one run through five innings before tiring in the sixth. Graham is the only uninjured member of last year’s three weekend starters.
“You always look to your Friday guy to be the leading guy,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He’s been there before and is a natural fit for you.”
Tracy has been one of the Gauchos’ best pitchers as he has yet to allow an earned run and picked up a win against the Spartans. Fleming fell victim to poor defense in his last start as he was tagged for six runs, five of which were unearned.
“You never know what you’ll get in terms of breaks or not breaks,” Brontsema said. “We expect our starters to not walk people and go out and compete.”
Manning the mound for Cal today will be junior right-hander Brandon Morrow, a preseason All All-American selection by Baseball America. Collegiate Baseball named Morrow the National Pitcher of the Week earlier in the month after he threw 6.1 innings of no-hit baseball and struck out 12 in a win against UC Irvine.
“We’ve faced and beaten [Long Beach State’s] Jared Weaver and other great pitchers since I’ve been here,” Tracy said. “The approach we take is to keep battling. If we have to win 1-0, then we’ll win 1-0.”
Sophomore second baseman Alden Carrithers has thrived in the leadoff spot for UCSB, leading the squad with nine runs, six walks, and a .517 on base percentage. Junior shortstop Chris Valaika has been the team’s most productive hitter, knocking in a team-high 10 runs while leading the way with a .417 average. Valaika has hit safely in each of Santa Barbara’s six games.
“Alden is doing a great job getting on base and leading off,” Valaika said. “Even when he doesn’t lead off he still manages to get the job done.”
Two more Baseball America preseason All-Americans, junior center fielder Brennan Boesch and junior left fielder Chris Errecart, solidify the Golden Bear lineup. Errecart leads the team with four homeruns and nine RBIs while Boesch has gone deep three times.
“Its a lot of fun and a big challenge to face a lineup like that,” Tracy said. “We’ll have to be a lot more careful with the power guys. It’s a treat to face these guys and we’re all looking forward to it.”