After finishing its six-game road trip with just one win, the UCSB baseball team looks to turn things around as they face Big West foe Cal Poly in nonconference action. The Gauchos host the Mustangs on Friday and Sunday and travel to San Luis Obispo on Saturday.
“We’re still trying to figure things out, which is what we anticipated the early season would be like,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “It’s another great opportunity to see another Big West team.”
The Santa Barbara (4-8 overall) offense has disappeared during their current 1-5 slump, scoring only 10 runs over their last six games. Junior shortstop Chris Valaika leads the team with 12 RBIs and sophomore second basemen Alden Carrithers has done his job at the top of the order, leading the team with a .378 average, 12 runs, 17 hits and has worked opposing pitchers for eight walks.
“I think everyone needs to step up offensively,” Brontsema said. “We’re not getting a lot of production in the outfield, catching or DH position. Across the board we need to produce more on offense.”
The Gauchos won the first match up between the two squads last season before losing the final five meetings. Cal Poly (12-6) has won series against Loyola Marymount and San Jose State, teams who took series from UCSB earlier in the year. The Mustangs have won three of four.
“I think they are a veteran club with quality pitching and are playing well right now,” Brontsema said. “They have a lot of confidence in what they are doing.”
The Mustangs bring three quality starters to the mound in junior Gary Daley, junior Bud Norris and sophomore Evan Reed. Daley has an ERA under five and has struck out 35 batters while the entire Gaucho staff has struck out 38.
“Daley is one of the best guys out there,” Brontsema said. “We know that the other guys are pitching really well for them. They are as good as anyone in the conference.”
Leading the way offensively for the Mustangs is senior outfielder Jimmy Van Ostrand and his six homeruns and 21 RBIs. Cal Poly boasts a powerful lineup that has belted 17 dingers to UCSB’s two.
“If you keep guys off in front of [Ostrand] it will limit his RBI opportunities,” Brontsema said. “We’ll try to mix pitches on him when he’s up there and be more careful when runners are on.”
The Gauchos have struggled to get on the board against quality pitching so far this year and they will have their hands full this weekend. This series will be a warm up before Big West play officially starts in early April.