With a series against Big West powerhouse Cal State Fullerton looming, the UCSB baseball team is looking to pick up a few conference wins against Cal State Northridge this weekend.
The weekend series will be the first time the Gauchos (17-20 overall, 3-6 in the Big West) have played at home since April 9. Santa Barbara just completed an eight-game road trip in which it posted a respectable 3-5 mark and now returns home to face a Matador team that sits in last place in the conference.
“Its always tough to play on the road and not only did we have an eight-game road trip, but 15 of our last 18 have been on the road,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “I wouldn’t say the trip was a success, but I wouldn’t say it was a failure. We’re definitely glad to be home.”
Northridge (18-20 overall, 2-6 Big West) has already matched last season’s win total and has won three of its last six. The squad boasts wins over #16 Arizona State, #11 Arkansas and #27 Washington.
The Matadors rank seventh in the conference in both team batting average and team ERA and have been struggling to put runs on the board of late. The lineup has plated more than four runs just twice in their last 10 games. Junior pitcher Craig Baker – on the mound for the series opener today – leads the team with five wins, an ERA just over three and is third in the Big West with 77 strikeouts.
“[CSUN] is only below us in terms of their record,” Brontsema said. “They’ve played a great schedule and have had some big wins and are incredibly improved over last year. We’re going to really have to battle against their Friday guy, Baker.”
After allowing 33 runs in their last series against UC Irvine, the Gauchos now have the worst team ERA in the Big West at 5.30. The staff has given up at least seven runs in each of the last five games, winning two, thanks to the success of the offense.
“We’ve had trouble getting the leadoff guy out and Irvine exploited that,” Brontsema said. “If we get that first guy out, it’s much easier.”
The UCSB offense came up big in its last outing, out-slugging UCLA 11-8. Junior right fielder Mario Lewis and freshman designated hitter Matt Clark had three RBI each. Santa Barbara took advantage of its opportunities, scoring the 11 runs on only nine hits.
“[Senior center fielder Matt] Emerick has been consistent, coming up with big hits and making plays,” Brontsema said. “If we’re going to be successful, we need more production across the board.”
The Gauchos have yet to win a series in conference play, but are looking to their return home to change their fortunes.
The first pitch of the weekend series is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.