In the locker room after the Gaucho baseball team’s heartbreaking 9-8 loss to USC on Tuesday night, Head Coach Bob Brontsema said nothing.
“There was nothing really to say,” senior centerfielder Gunnar Terhune said. “Wow. [But] I know it’s on his mind as much as it is on ours, [that] this could turn out both ways: we can get nasty on the field, or we can start to crumble.”
And thus the stage was set for an important conference series this weekend against Long Beach State at Blair Field. The Gauchos look to redeem themselves from the loss to the Trojans against a team they swept in a three-game series last season at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. At 4-5 in the conference, the Dirtbags are in sixth place in the Big West behind the 3-3 Gauchos.
“It’s the question of the year: how do you respond? How do you ever respond?” Brontsema said. “I thought we did play well against USC, but we just let it get away. Sometimes it happens. That’s the nature of baseball. You have to respond because you play the next day. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Gauchos held an 8-0 lead for five innings on Tuesday behind the pitching of junior right-hander Greg Davis, who earned the Tuesday start after becoming the Gaucho’s go-to guy in the bullpen. When Brontsema deferred to his bullpen in the sixth, the Trojans drove in a run in the sixth, two runs in the seventh and eighth and four runs in the ninth to clinch the come-from-behind victory.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that,” Terhune said. “Ever. We need to get on the mound and be aggressive and come after people. There are a few guys on the team that do that, and that’s why they’re successful. They don’t feel sorry for themselves after giving up one, they [just] refuse to give up two.”
Meanwhile, the Dirtbags beat #5 UCLA 16-4 in their Tuesday night game in Los Angeles. Still, Long Beach has lost two of their three conference series so far, while the Gauchos have split their two series, beating rival Cal Poly 2-1 and losing 1-2 to #22 Fullerton, who also holds the top spot in the Big West. Three teams are tied for second in the conference at 5-4: Pacific, UC Irvine and UC Riverside.
“I don’t think you can look at anybody’s record on the West Coast and determine how good of a team they are,” Brontsema said. “[Long Beach] plays one of the top five most difficult schedules in the country. They’re a perennial national power, playing at their place. We’re going to have to play well to come out of the weekend.”
As usual, junior left-hander Mario Hollands will start on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. The El Cerrito native is 76th in the country in total number of strikeouts and fourth in the Big West with a 3.12 ERA.
“[Blair Field] is more of a pitcher ballpark,” Hollands said. “That helps. It’s a big park, lots of good fans out there. They’ve got a good buzz going by the time the fourth inning starts, they keep warm.”
Junior left-hander Nick Capito, whose ERA jumped from 3.70 to 5.40 after a disastrous outing last Saturday against Fullerton, is likely to pitch on Saturday, while junior right-hander Jesse Meaux will start on Sunday. With a team-leading 1.93 ERA heading into the weekend, Davis is likely to be the Gauchos’ main guy in the bullpen.
“[Davis] has been phenomenal for us,” Terhune said. “He came out of nowhere. He really showed that hard work pays off. He loves closing out games.”
The series is scheduled to start tonight at 6:30.
“These guys can turn it around,” Terhune continued. “Myself included. It’s about believing in yourself and believing the guy next to you in the Gaucho jersey will work his ass off for you.”
Hollands added, “We’re still in a pretty good position in the Big West.”