After splitting its season opening series with San Jose State last weekend, the UCSB baseball team will open a six-game home stand with three games against Hawaii this weekend at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
UCSB (1-1 overall) traveled to Hawaii (7-2) last season, but the trip proved to be bittersweet as the Gauchos dropped both games to the Rainbows. Senior right-hander Steve Morlock (0-1) will start the home opener for the Gauchos in his first home game since 2005. Morlock started the Gauchos season opener last Friday and picked up the loss, despite allowing only one unearned run over five innings of work. The strong start was a good sign for the Gauchos, who are counting on Morlock to be a dominant Friday starter throughout the season.
“I anticipate Steve being very good for us all year,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Before he got hurt last year he was just outstanding and he’s a good pitcher, so we’re going to lean on him to be that type of guy for us all season.”
Senior lefty Jeff Braun (0-0) will look to get back on the right track after giving up three runs in five innings in his first start of the season. Braun will start Saturday’s game while freshman right-hander Mike Ford (0-0) is expected to take the mound in Sunday’s season finale. Ford made his Gaucho debut last Sunday when he pitched one inning of relief in a 6-5 Gaucho victory. The Gauchos will also look for continued success from the bullpen, which has given up only one earned run this season.
UCSB’s lineup will once again center around senior first baseman Robbie Blauer, who reached base five times in two games against San Jose State (3-3). Blauer was walked three times in Sunday’s win, including two intentional walks, but the rest of the Gaucho lineup made the Spartans pay. Senior outfielder Mario Lewis and junior outfielder Mike Zuanich picked up three hits apiece and combined to drive in three runs in support of Blauer.
“There is no question that when they walk our number three hitter, we have to make them pay,” Brontsema said. “We’re not going to [drive in Blauer] every time but we certainly want to make them think twice about walking Robbie”
Caesar Uyesaka Stadium will be a welcome site for the Gauchos, who spent the majority of last weekend’s series waiting in their hotel and hoping that the rain would let up.
“We feel good about getting back into our facility and playing at home,” Brontsema said. “We want to get into the flow of the season, but we’re not really into the flow yet since the rains have kind of thrown off our schedule.”
Today’s first pitch will be at 2 p.m. with Saturday’s game starting at 1 p.m. and Sunday’s game beginning at noon.