Fresh off its second Big West series win the UCSB baseball team (23-24 overall, 8-10 in the Big West) takes a break from conference action as it hosts #20 Pepperdine this afternoon. The Waves defeated the Gauchos 8-1 in mid-April.
Pepperdine (36-18) closes out its regular season with the trip to Santa Barbara and is preparing for this weekend’s West Coast Conference Championship Series at San Francisco. Since the two clubs last met, the Waves have won all four of their series and have posted an 11-3 mark including their current three-game winning streak.
“They’ve been ranked most of the year and put together a good season,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “They’ve played a good schedule and are certainly in the top six schools on the West coast.”
Junior catcher Chad Tracy leads an offense that has scored double-digit runs in four of its last six games Tracy leads the team with 41 RBI and the squad has a superb .301 batting average on the year.
Getting the call on the mound for Pepperdine will be sophomore pitcher Barry Enright, who owns a near perfect 11-1 record on the year along with a 3.88 ERA. Enright allowed four runs through 6.1 innings and picked up the win in his last outing against St. Mary’s.
Likely to take the hill for the Gauchos is freshman pitcher Anthony Martin, who would be making his fourth start on the year. The pitching staff has been solid all around for the last few weeks, allowing more than five runs just twice in the last 10 games.
“We’re starting to get more comfortable and slow the game down a little bit,” Brontsema said. “We’re starting four freshman and six guys who haven’t played at the Division I level and it’s an adjustment and they’re starting to figure it out and play with more confidence.”
Among the newcomers to the Gauchos this season is junior first basemen Robbie Blauer, who has emerged as a consistent threat in the UCSB lineup. The Orange Coast College transfer has thrived in the three hole of late, protecting junior shortstop Chris Valaika in the batting order. Blauer went 7-14 over the weekend against Long Beach State, with two runs knocked in and has the fourth best batting average among Santa Barbara’s regulars.
“We knew he was a solid player and he had an outstanding weekend against LB,” Brontsema said. “He’s pretty consistent and his lows haven’t been too low. He’s certainly been a big lift for us, especially defensively.”
The squad was one blown save away from winning its past three conference series and has won seven of its last 11 games, including last weekend’s series win over second place Long Beach State. UCSB currently sits in sixth place in the conference.
“I think we’re all kicking ourselves for games we let go earlier in year and think we should be better,” Brontsema said. “Now that we have confidence it would have been nice to figure things out earlier in the year and be even better.”
First pitch is at 2:00 from Caesar Uyesaka Stadium this afternoon.