An up-and-down season comes to an end this weekend when the UCSB baseball team hosts Big West rival Cal Poly.
The Gauchos (23-28 overall, 9-9 in the Big West) currently sit in sixth place in the conference, but a sweep of the Mustangs (29-24, 10-8 Big West) could move the team all the way up to fourth. The series also features two intriguing subplots, with senior first baseman Robbie Blauer currently in the middle of a 19-game hitting streak, while fellow senior Justin Segal sits one save short of the school career record. Segal’s 15 career saves are third in school history, but with two saves over the weekend, the former walk-on would hold sole possession of the record.
“We’d like to see [Segal] break that this weekend,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He’s been a great story. He walked on as a shortstop and pitcher and he changed his pitching mechanics. He’s been outstanding for us and he’s been really clutch the last few years.”
Blauer extended his streak to 19 games on Wednesday, his second longest streak of the season. The Huntington Beach native started the year with hits in 23 straight games, which increased his streak to 24 games over two seasons. Blauer is hitting .395 overall this season, good for second in the Big West. With a big weekend and little help from his own pitching staff, Blauer could overtake Mustang junior Grant Desme for the conference lead.
Perhaps more impressive than the hitting stats though, is Blauer’s discipline at the plate. In 200 official at-bats this season, he has struck out only 10 times, to go along with a team-high 34 walks. The 10 strikeouts are the lowest of any Gaucho with at least 32 at-bats.
For the second consecutive weekend, freshman right-hander Mike Ford (2-1, 5.31) will get the ball to open the series. With 22 more strikeouts than the next closest Gaucho, Ford will become the first freshman since 1997 to lead the team in strikeouts. The accomplishment puts Ford in good company, as the last freshman to pull off the feat was current San Francisco Giant Barry Zito.
“Ford has been very good and there’s been days he has been outstanding, but he just hasn’t been rewarded with any kind of decisions,” Brontsema said. “He’s pitched well but run into a little tough luck, but we’re looking to get another good start out of him this weekend. He’s been very good and he’s got an incredibly bright future with us.”
Senior right-hander Brian Tracy (1-3, 4.38) will get the start on Saturday and senior southpaw Jeff Braun (2-7, 6.38) will toe the rubber in Sunday’s season finale. The starts will be the last career appearances for both players, as they are two of the 12 UCSB seniors. In addition to Blauer, Segal, Tracy and Braun, catchers Matt Anderson and Matt McColgan, outfielders Mario Lewis and Clayton Shank, and pitchers Justin Aspegren, Bryan Fleming, Michael Martin and Steve Morlock will all be saying goodbye to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Sunday.
Today’s first pitch will be at 2 p.m., with both weekend games slated to start at 1 p.m.