It’s a big weekend for the streaking Gaucho baseball team.
Left-handed junior Mario Hollands will start off the three-game series at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium at 2 p.m. today against #22 Cal State Fullerton, which just took two out of three games against #18 UC Irvine last weekend.
“[Fullerton’s] playing really well,” Hollands said. “They’re always packing. Hopefully the pitching staff can cool them down a little bit.”
In a preseason poll of Big West coaches, Fullerton (18-12 overall) and Irvine (19-11 overall) were predicted to take first and second in the conference. Currently, Fullerton leads the Big West with a 5-1 conference record. At 4-2, the Anteaters hold second place, while the 2-1 Gauchos are in third.
“We’ve got a great opportunity,” senior centerfielder Gunnar Terhune said. “If we get quality at-bats, productive outs and play defense, we’ll be in all three of these ballgames.”
Terhune is batting .316 in the last nine games in the leadoff spot, with eight RBI and four doubles. As a team, the Gauchos have hit 35 runs in the last three games. Terhune claims that the team’s newfound bats have had a lot to do with the new approach the team is taking at the plate.
“A productive out is just as good as a hit for the statistics,” he said. “We don’t need you to go 4-4. If you go 0-4 but get a few RBI, that’s [still how] you’re going to win games.”
The Titans’ starting pitchers have combined for a 3.82 ERA. However, their usual Friday starter, right-handed sophomore Noe Ramirez, fractured his glove hand in a fall after getting hit in the face by a baseball during practice. The impact itself caused no injury. Ramirez will be replaced by senior right-hander Kyle Mertins, a relief pitcher with a 3-1 record and a 2.15 ERA who has started three games this season for the Titans.
“The injury is big for [our offense],” Terhune said. “But it doesn’t really matter who they come at us with arm wise.”
UCSB’s starting pitching lineup has a combined ERA of 4.27 after averaging 6.2 innings per start. Hollands leads the lineup with a 3.12 ERA and 53 strikeouts in seven appearances. Junior left-hander Nick Capito is tomorrow’s likely starter, leading the lineup with a 4-2 record. Right-handed junior Jesse Meaux, who only allowed three runs in his first career complete game in last Sunday’s 10-3 win over Cal Poly, is likely to be the Gauchos’ third starter.
Fullerton’s batting lineup hits a cumulative .321, compared to the Gauchos’ .295.
“The approach stays kind of the same no matter what teams you’re facing,” Hollands said. “[Although] against Fullerton the pressure kind of gets magnified, we’ve still got to attack, we’ve still got to throw inside. We can’t be afraid.”
The Saturday and Sunday games are both slated to start at 1 p.m. The first 250 students tomorrow will win free “Gunnar” shades — the same plastic aviators featured on SI.com that Terhune, Hollands and a few other team members wore with brightly-colored suits in a promo video for this weekend’s series against the Titans.