After being mauled at the plate by the Golden Bears last weekend, the UCSB baseball team heads to Beaumont, Tex., this afternoon to take part in this weekend’s Lamar Classic. Hosted by the Lamar Cardinals, the classic will give the Gauchos three games of nonconference experience and a much-needed breather from the gloomy California weather in which they have struggled as of late.
UCSB (3-5 overall) begins the tournament against Lamar (8-3) this afternoon at 4:30, as senior lefthander Jeff Braun will take the mound in hopes of erasing his mediocre performance against Cal on Monday. Braun is 0-2 on the year with a 3.95 ERA and will attempt to put a crashing halt to the Cardinals’ current seven-game winning streak. Junior lefthander Brian Sisk has been named the starter for Lamar today and will look to continue his impressive start to the season. In 19 innings, Sisk has recorded a 2-0 record with 17 strikeouts and two walks to compliment his perfect 0.00 ERA.
In order to find success against the surging Cardinals, the Gauchos will have to take the bats off their shoulders and try to get Braun the lead early. In its eight games this season, Santa Barbara is 3-0 when scoring in the first inning and 3-0 when scoring three or more runs in the game. Recently though, the Gauchos have struggled offensively, only posting two unearned runs in their last two games, thanks to a balk and a passed ball. If the Gauchos want to come home happy this weekend, their bats are going to have to start producing more runs for their pitchers to work with.
But the rubber may not be a friendly place for the Gauchos this afternoon, as Lamar boasts four batters hitting above the .400 mark. Junior infielder Brian Lloyd leads the Cardinals with a .474 batting average, a .711 slugging percentage and 13 RBI, while junior outfielder Collin Delome stands in second with a .468 average and eight RBI. Senior Erik Kanaby is batting .422 and is amid a 16-game hitting streak dating back to last season. Junior catcher Michael Ambort leads the team with 15 RBI and his .409 batting average stands at fourth on the team.
While Santa Barbara has played in three fewer games than the Cardinals, the team still has not come close to the numbers Lamar’s offense has produced. While junior outfielder Chris Fox leads the Gauchos with an impressive .478 average and .571 on-base percentage in six games, he has only managed to score twice and drive in two runs despite 11 hits with three doubles. The reason Fox and the Gauchos cannot score has been their inability to reach base – only three Gauchos are batting above .275 – and drive in runners in scoring position once they actually get on. Opponents have also turned nine double plays against UCSB, with the team leaving a surprisingly low 56 runners on base in its eight games.
The Gauchos may find more success against St. John’s (0-6) tomorrow, a team that has yet to find a win amidst a tough nonconference schedule. St. John’s boasts a solid trio of starting pitchers who have fallen victim to low offensive production and poor performances from its bullpen. In what looks to be a pitchers duel between senior right-handed pitcher Steve Morlock and possible starter Matt Tosoni, the Gauchos will look to wear down St. John’s pitching and exploit its bullpen.
Sunday morning the Gauchos close the classic with a 9 a.m. game against Kansas State. The Wildcats (7-1) boast a solid lineup featuring the powerful Byron Wiley. While Wiley has posted a .370 average, he has belted two home runs and seven RBI in eight games. His nine walks lead the team, helping him to a .541 on-base percentage, but with seven strikeouts, the Gaucho pitching staff can afford to challenge him.