The UCSB baseball team connected on all cylinders, soundly defeating Marist College (0-3) in each of their three games over the weekend at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. A combination of dominant starting pitching and consistent hitting from top to bottom had the Gauchos (3-0) overtake the Red Foxes 9-0 in Friday’s season opener before completing the sweep with 8-4 and 13-4 victories in Saturday’s doubleheader.
“We had great production from all of the guys this weekend,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We were able to score early and string our hits together, which made life a lot easier for all of our starters.”
Though the run support was clearly appreciated, all three Gaucho starters were exceptional in their season debuts and needed little offense behind them to maintain a sizeable lead. Sophomore right-hander Mike Ford, the 2007 leader in innings pitched and strikeouts, picked up right where he left off last season, tossing seven shutout innings while striking out 11 in Friday’s opener. The only hit that Ford allowed in his seven innings of work was a bouncer up the middle that was almost turned into an out by newly converted junior second baseman Shane Carlson. Redshirt freshman Mario Hollands was equally impressive in his Saturday start, pitching six innings with eight strikeouts and no walks.
“Mike [Ford] and Mario [Hollands] had all of their pitches going,” Pitching Coach Tom Myer said. “They mixed in their soft stuff to keep the hitters off balanced and used the fastball to stay ahead in the count.”
Senior lefty Chuck Huggins, the starter in the back end of Saturday’s doubleheader, gave up a two-run homer to Marist’s Brian McDonough before settling down to pitch beautifully the rest of the way. Huggins, who is more of a finesse pitcher than Ford or Hollands, locked in after his lone mistake, giving up no more runs through five while striking out seven batters.
“I made a bad pitch and paid for it,” Huggins said. “The guys scored a bunch of runs for me in the bottom half of the inning, and I was able to get back out there and make my pitches.”
The Gaucho offense delivered all weekend, receiving huge contributions from nearly all the regular starters. Senior outfielders Chris Fox and Mike Zuanich had particularly good weekends; Fox went seven for 12 with a home run and three stolen bases, while Zuanich also went deep and drove in five runs. Junior second baseman Shane Carlson, who struggled offensively at the start of last season, was also a key contributor with five runs batted in on five hits, including one home run.
“We got big hits from so many guys it’s hard to pick out an MVP this weekend,” Fox said. “Mike [Zuanich] and Shane [Carlson] were hot all weekend, and guys like Pat [Rose], Brian [Gump] and myself were able to get on base and swipe some bags to get into scoring position.”