After scoring a season-high 12 runs in their midweek loss to Pepperdine, the Gauchos will look to keep the bats going in a weekend series against Cal State Northridge.
The pitching staff led the way earlier this season, but in more recent games, it has been the lineup that has kept UCSB (4-8) in games. The Gauchos have scored 29 runs in the past four games, but inconsistent pitching has led to a 1-3 record over that stretch.
“We think we can pitch and we think we have the ability to score some runs and play good defense, but we have not put it together yet,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We don’t know our identity yet. Right now we don’t have an identity and if we do it’s a negative one.”
The recent offensive outburst has been keyed by senior first baseman Robbie Blauer, who takes a 13 game hitting streak into today’s game. Blauer’s .449 batting average, two home runs, 12 RBI and nine runs scored are all team highs.
Junior centerfielder Chris Fox has done a remarkable job of getting on base in front of Blauer, while junior leftfielder Mike Zuanich has excelled as the cleanup hitter. Fox has reached base in exactly 50 percent of his plate appearances this season in addition to leading the team with four stolen bases. Zuanich is hitting .333 to go along with seven runs and seven RBI.
The only real problem for the Gauchos offensively this season has been the complete lack of production from the bottom of the lineup. Infielders Matt Valaika, Patrick Rose and Shane Carlson have struggled at the plate, hitting .222, .148 and .118 respectively. Carlson in particular has struggled to get on track, with only four singles in 34 at bats.
“For me [Carlson] is playing a great shortstop and that’s what we want from him, but there’s no question we could use some offense from him and he’s capable of doing it,” Brontsema said. “I think Shane is going to hit and he’s certainly going to hit better than he is right now.”
Seniors Steve Morlock (1-3, 4.12) and Jeff Braun (0-3, 5.21) are expected to start the first two games of the series with freshman Mike Ford (0-0, 4.76) on tap for Sunday’s series finale. The entire pitching staff has struggled recently, with a team ERA of 5.07. The lack of success from the starters has increased the pressure on a bullpen that gave up nine runs against the Waves.
This weekend’s three game series will give the Gaucho staff a chance to get back on track, as the Matadors (11-10) have only three players hitting over .300 on the season. Cal State Northridge has, however, shown some power, as four different players have hit two home runs.
Friday’s first pitch will be at 2 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday’s games both starting at 1 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.