While Spring Training gets underway in Arizona for the California teams of Major League Baseball, the #28 UC Santa Barbara baseball team (3-1 overall) will travel a little farther east to Minnesota this weekend to play in the Dairy Queen Classic. The Gauchos might have some trouble playing in the unfamiliar territory of the Minnesota Twins’ Metrodome, but the team believes it will take down all three opponents that it is set to face off against.
“They [Minnesota, Hawaii, and Washington] are all good programs with good histories, but we’re expecting three wins,” sophomore starting pitcher Mario Hollands said.
UCSB has plenty of reason to be confident in a weekend sweep, as two of its three slated starting pitchers – freshman Joe Gardner and Hollands – have yet to give up a run while striking out a combined 19 batters in two starts. Sunday starter, junior right hander Mike Ford, did not have his best start in his season opener against #9 UCLA, but battled through five innings against one of the nation’s better teams to pick up the win in a thrilling 7-6 victory this past Tuesday.
“UCLA was a big win for us, and Ford pitched great considering the level of competition,” senior second baseman Steve Cook said. “We have all the confidence in the world in all of starters.”
To say the Gaucho offense has done their part to back up the pitching would be an understatement, as UCSB has outscored opponents 30-14 over four games so far this season. A pair of Santa Barbara seniors, center fielder Brian Gump and shortstop Shane Carlson, have powered the offense thus far with three home runs each and a combined 13 runs batted in. Two newcomers to the starting lineup, senior third baseman Robby Cummings and sophomore right fielder Mark Haddow, have been great additions to the everyday batting order, with both players hitting at a team-leading .455 clip.
“Our hitting has been exceptional,” Cook said. “If we continue to do what we’ve been doing, we have a chance to be a great team this year.”
If they can keep their win streak alive in this weekend’s nonconference action, there might even be a little extra reward on top of an improved overall record.
“Maybe if we win all three games we’ll get some free Dairy Queen,” Hollands said.