After a heartbreaking series loss against #4 Cal State Fullerton, the UCSB baseball team takes a break from conference play to face UCLA this afternoon.
The Gauchos (20-23 overall, 6-9 in the Big West) won Saturday’s game against the Titans and on Sunday came within two outs of nabbing their second straight Big West series win.
“We played our best baseball this weekend, that’s for sure,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “The outcomes didn’t necessarily prove that, but in terms of pitching, defense and hitting we put it together pretty well against a great opponent.”
Today is the second meeting between the two clubs this season; UCSB took down the Bruins 11-8 on April 25 in Los Angeles. Since that meeting UCLA (25-19) has posted a 2-2 mark, losing two of three to Cal and knocking off UC Riverside.
The four Santa Barbara starting pitchers – juniors Andy Graham, Jeff Braun, Brian Tracy and Bryan Fleming – all saw action last weekend against Fullerton. Fleming is the leading candidate to get the call to the mound today.
After a dominant performance against Cal State Northridge the previous weekend, the Gaucho pitching staff was solid once again against the Titans, holding their opponents’ offense below their scoring average in two of the three games.
“I think we’ve commanded the zone pretty good,” Brontsema said. “We threw a lot of strikes and didn’t walk a lot of players over the weekend. We got ahead a lot and stretched the zone better than in the past. We gave up some 0-2 hits but pitched very well.”
The Santa Barbara offense was able to break through against the vaunted Fullerton pitching staff in every game last weekend. Junior shortstop Chris Valaika led the way, tallying eight RBIs on the weekend after being moved to the two-hole. Junior first baseman Robbie Blauer was strong at the plate, batting 4-8 with an RBI in the final two games. Despite the offensive success, Brontsema still plans to continue changing up the lineup.
“Those decisions change all the time,” Brontsema said. “We’ll try to get guys playing time, get [freshman outfielder] Austin Hogans some at-bats, maybe catch [junior] Brian Anderson. We’ll probably continue to mix it up.”
UCSB has posted a 3-3 mark on its current homestand and hopes to knock off UCLA, who just dropped out of the national polls, to ensure a winning record on the stay at home.
“Tuesday games can sometimes be high-scoring,” Brontsema said. “We went pretty deep into our staff and they didn’t play this weekend. We could conceivably see all three of their weekend guys for a couple innings.”
The first pitch will be delivered at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.