The UCSB baseball team is hoping a little ocean air will help it get back on track when the squad hosts Pacific in the Big West home opener this weekend.
After falling short in the first conference series against UC Riverside, Santa Barbara (12-18 overall, 1-2 in the Big West) begins a seven-game homestand this afternoon against the Tigers (9-25, 0-3 Big West). The Gauchos will try to earn their first series victory in nearly a month and erase the memory of the squad’s recent six-game road trip, on which UCSB picked up just one win.
Junior pitcher Chuck Huggins (4-0) earned Santa Barbara’s only win against the Highlanders (21-12, 2-1 Big West) last weekend and will take the hill in today’s series opener. Also starting for the second straight weekend is freshman hurler Mike Ford (1-1), who allowed seven runs in 5.2 innings last Sunday. Returning to the rotation as the Sunday starter is senior Jeff Braun (0-5), who has pitched out of the bullpen for that past few weeks.
The pitching staff was supposed to be UCSB’s strong point at the season’s outset, but the staff ranks seventh in the conference with a 5.51 ERA, better than only the Tigers. Opponents are batting .304 against the Gauchos and UCSB has struck out 176 batters, both also good for seventh in the Big West. Projected to be one of the premier relievers in the nation, senior Justin Segal has allowed 24 hits in 25 innings and has posted a 4.32 ERA in 18 appearances on the season.
The Gaucho offense is paced by senior first baseman Robbie Blauer, who leads the squad in nearly every offensive category. Blauer is tied for the conference lead with a .397 batting average, and ranks among the Big West’s top ten in hits, doubles, and slugging percentage. Blauer is the only UCSB player hitting above .300, but five players have an average above .280.
Santa Barbara has posted an 8-9 mark at home thus far and went 6-4 over its last home stand. First pitch is schedule for 2 p.m. from Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.