After months of preseason training, the UCSB baseball team will make its debut this weekend when visiting La Salle University comes to Caesar Uyesaka stadium for a three-game series. La Salle, hailing Philadelphia, will play its first games of the season this weekend as well.

[media-credit name=”Daily Nexus File Photo” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]“We’re going to go out and feel our way out about where we’re at and what we need to work at,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said.

The Gauchos have been participating in preseason workouts since Fall Quarter, and look forward to an opportunity to start preparing for regular season play.

“Fall practices get a little monotonous,” senior outfielder Mark Haddow said. “Everyone is excited to get out there — everything we do now is preparation for conference.”

Last year, UCSB finished fifth overall in Big West Conference play, and watched as league rival Cal State Fullerton won the conference championship and played in the NCAA Super Regionals.

“We didn’t play as well as we should have in conference last year,” Haddow said. “This year we got a much different team that’s much more motivated and dedicated to the team philosophy than it has been in the past.”

Coach Brontsema plans on using this series against La Salle as one of many tests to see what skills the team needs work on, and what areas it can utilize as strengths.

“These first couple weekends you find out where you’re at,” Brontsema said. “We’re going to give a great effort; the guys have really worked hard and been committed.”

La Salle University returns a majority of its players from a team that went 22-32 overall last season, and did not play past its own conference playoffs.

“They were very young last year,” Brontsema said. “They returned a lot of players that were key contributors to their success … those teams are usually pretty dangerous.”

UCSB returns many of its own players from last year’s squad as well, including senior pitchers Kevin Gelinas and Jesse Meaux, both of whom were selected in last year’s MLB draft but chose to play their senior seasons as Gauchos.

Haddow will be strong support for UCSB at the right field position, while the infield is led in part by senior first baseman Trevor Whyte. Whyte led the Gauchos in multiple offensive categories last season. He played in all 54 games, hitting five home runs and driving in 34 runs while batting .304 at the plate.

“We’ve put a lot of effort in creating a better team,” Brontsema said. “I’m as anxious as anybody else to get out there and see what these guys can produce.”

The series against La Salle will not be counted toward UCSB’s Big West Conference record. However, it will count toward the team’s RPI, which may be a determining factor for postseason play if the Gauchos are unable to win the league championship.

“The better we can do out of conference, the stronger our RPI gets,” Brontsema said. “Our non-conference schedule is outstanding this year, and it starts with La Salle.”

UCSB begins its three-day series against La Salle Friday at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka stadium.