After a 5-2 homestand, the UCSB baseball team hits the road today for a three-game set against lowly Cal State Northridge.
The Gauchos (17-20 overall, 5-4 in the Big West)[[ok]] faced the Matadors (13-28, 1-8 Big West) earlier this season, and came away with a three-game sweep. UCSB is currently in sixth place in the conference standings, but with only a 3-8 road record, the Gauchos cannot afford to take any opponent lightly.
“We have to go out and take care of business,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “If we go down and let things get away and not have a good weekend, we’ve ruined everything we’ve done recently.”
Senior first baseman Robbie Blauer leads UCSB’s attack, Blauer is second in the conference with a .397 batting average, and he leads the Gauchos in hits, RBI, doubles, walks and at-bats. In addition, he is the only player to start all 37 of the team’s games. In his second season as a Gaucho, Blauer has blossomed into one of the toughest outs in the country. Along with his league-leading .506 on base percentage, he has struck out only six times, a rate of once every 28.7 plate appearances.
Adding to the Gauchos success at the plate has been the junior duo of outfielder Chris Fox and third baseman Patrick Rose, who have settled into the top two spots in the batting order respectively. Fox carries a nine-game hitting streak into today’s game, a stretch in which he is hitting .436. Rose has been nearly as successful as Fox, with 12 hits, nine runs and six RBI in the last seven games.
The continued success of the lineup will be key for the Gauchos, as their pitching has been inconsistent throughout the year. If all facets of the team can come together, UCSB has a chance to get right back into the race for the Big West crown. The Gauchos come into the weekend just a half-game out of third place, and two games away from first.
“The more games you win, the more your games are important,” Brontsema said. “That’s what you want. You want all your games to be for something big. That’s how we’ll approach the weekend and all the games after.”
UCSB is expected to send the same trio to the mound for the third consecutive week. Junior Chuck Huggins (5-1, 4.20) picked up his first loss as a Gaucho last Friday, but he remains the team’s Friday starter and he will take the mound in today’s series opener. Freshman Mike Ford (2-2, 5.69) will get the ball on Saturday and face the same Matadors squad that he defeated earlier this season for his first career win. Ford pitched eight innings in that game and allowed only four hits and one run. Resurgent senior Jeff Braun (1-6, 6.31) will take the mound Sunday looking to continue his recent success. In his last three appearances, Braun has posted an ERA of 3.53.
Today’s first pitch in Northridge will happen at 3 p.m, while both weekend games will begin at 1 p.m.