After three stellar series in conference play, the UCSB baseball team faces its final nonconference opponent of the season this weekend as UC Davis comes to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Santa Barbara (23-25 overall, 8-10 in the Big West) currently sits in sixth place in the Big West with one conference series remaining. With a strong finish, the Gauchos could potentially finish as high as third, a definite turnaround after a slow start to their conference play. The only Big West series remaining on the year is at Cal Poly.
“We have a week off from conference games and a lot will be answered this weekend,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “If Cal Poly does well in Fullerton, that could seal our fate.”
The Aggies (15-32 overall) have lost their last two games and five of their last six. The soon-to-be Division I school has struggled playing a full Big West schedule. Davis has just five wins against conference schools, combined with 14 losses and a 10-game losing streak over a three-week period in April.
The pitching staff holds a 5.66 ERA, more than half a run worse than any team in the Big West. The staff has not held an opponent to fewer than five runs in any of the last six games. Senior pitcher Michael Potter is the ace of the staff and owns a 2.79 ERA, sixth best among conference hurlers.
“I know they pitch well, and last year they dominated us,” Brontsema said. “We scored one run in three games. [Davis will] stack up well because they can pitch, so we have our work cut out for us.”
Senior catcher Tyler LaTorre is the team’s offensive catalyst, setting the table by batting an efficient .373, while reaching base at a .453 mark. LaTorre and senior first basemen Lukas Kirby lead the squad, having knocked in 28 runs, while only three Aggies have more than 20 RBI.
Sunday is Senior Day for the Gauchos, and Brontsema said he would stick with the current roster.
“We’ve kind of fallen into the old lefty-righty lineup and we’ll probably stick with that,” Brontsema said.
Despite losing most of the run production from a season ago, the Gauchos are in position to close out the season strong and solidify their conference standing.
“What’s important is that we identify the improvements that we have made,” Brontsema said. “I think we’re playing our best baseball at the end of the year, which is what you want to do. I hope it motivates them to understand how important the first part of the season is.”
The first pitch of the weekend is at today 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.