After picking up its first conference series win, the UCSB baseball team hosts one of the top teams in the country this weekend.
Fourth-ranked Cal State Fullerton (33-11 overall, 10-2 in the Big West) comes to town having won two straight games and five of their last six. The Titans have spent time at the top of the polls in previous weeks and only two of their losses have been by more than three runs.
“One of the reasons they were the #1-ranked team in the country is they don’t have a lot of weaknesses,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “They have a .312 average, a 2.52 ERA and are fielding .980, all which lead the conference.”
The Titans possess one of the best pitching staffs in the country, led by sophomore Wes Roemer, who has a 1.90 ERA and has struck out 96 batters, both of which are conference bests. Junior Lauren Gagnier comes in at 10-3 on the year with a 2.62 ERA and senior Dustin Miller closes out the solid rotation with a 9-1 record.
“They have great command,” Brontsema said. “If you take their three starters, they have 36 walks and that’s close to 270 innings; their command is phenomenal.”
Fullerton’s offense is no slouch either, as the lineup averages more than six runs a game. All nine regulars have at least 18 RBI – eight hit above .280 – and the Titan offense leads the Big West in nearly every category.
“I think we’re going to have to play very well and limit their opportunities offensively,” Brontsema said. “They hit well, execute well, run bases well, and we can’t let them start going downhill because that’s when they run over some people.”
After winning two of three from Cal State Northridge the Gauchos (19-21 overall, 5-7 Big West) are now tied for fifth in the Big West. Santa Barbara dropped the series finale against the Matadors but has won four of its last six contests. Last season, the Titans swept the series in Fullerton, outscoring UCSB 35-8.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Brontsema said. “These last three conference weeks we played teams ahead of us. This provides us an opportunity to jump to the top half of the division.”
The key for the Gauchos will be their pitchers’ ability to contain the Fullerton offense. The Santa Barbara pitching staff turned in one of its best performances of the season against Northridge last weekend. Junior pitcher Andy Graham had his best start of the season and junior pitcher Jeff Braun did not allow any earned runs.
“We’ve played some better baseball recently and we play well at home,” Brontsema said. “Those are the bests things we have going for us.”
The first pitch of the weekend is this afternoon at 2 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.