After a 13-inning loss on the road against #3 UCLA, the UCSB baseball team (3-1) will look to bounce back in a four-game series at Loyola Marymount (1-3). The Lions, who have already played and lost to two Big West powerhouses in UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, will also try and get back on the winning track, hosting their first home series at Page Stadium.
For the Gauchos, their first loss of the season was not an easy one to swallow, but the team does not appear too downtrodden after hanging tough with one of the best collegiate baseball teams in the nation.
“It was a tough loss last night, but we can’t be too hard on ourselves because we did a lot of positive things,” senior pitcher Michael Martin said. “There were also some negative things, but that’s what we’re going to work on Thursday in practice so we can go in there and hopefully win all four games.”
For UCSB to sweep Loyola, the offense is going to have to step things up to match the starting pitching that has been lights out over the first four games of the season. Though they managed to score a whopping 30 runs in their opening series against Marist College, the Gaucho offense only managed four runs in Wednesday’s loss versus UCLA, facing a pitching staff more comparable to what they will be seeing for the rest of the season.
“We’re always looking for production from everybody up and down the line-up so we’re not overly concerned about anybody at this point,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “I know we’ll get better production from the [designated hitter] spot and that [junior first baseman] Eric Oliver will start coming around.”
Although certain Gaucho sluggers have been great thus far in the young season, notably senior outfielders Chris Fox and Mike Zuanich who both boast near .500 batting averages, it would not be surprising to see other players have large contributions against LMU.
“It seems like Oliver’s been pitched around, and McMurray’s kind of been in a slump right now, but we’re looking for those guys to bust out,” Martin said.
The starter in Friday’s 2 p.m. game should be sophomore righty Mike Ford, who set the tone in the Gaucho’s season opener with seven innings of shutout baseball including 11 strikeouts. Saturday’s doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. will feature redshirt freshman Mario Hollands, another Gaucho starter who has yet to give up a run, followed by right hander Michael Martin, who has been deemed the fourth starter by the coaching staff. Senior Chuck Huggins will take the final start in Sunday’s 1 p.m. finale.
If the UCSB starters find themselves in late inning trouble, the entire Gaucho bullpen should be ready to go, especially after several of the less experienced arms made their season debuts against UCLA. Right hander Clayton Edwards and left hander Kyle Brown, both front runners for the closer position, have been particularly impressive to start off the season, yet to allow a run in 7 2/3 innings of combined work.
“The bullpen should be fresh going into the weekend,” said Martin. “That was basically a tune-up for our pitchers on Wednesday, to see how they could handle certain situations.”