Coming off of a 2-1 series victory over rival Cal Poly that ended in dramatic fashion, the UCSB baseball team will head south to take on Cal State Northridge today.
Senior infielder Beck Wheeler’s walk-off single in the 13th inning capped off the series for the Gauchos, as their 5-4 victory improved their record to 14-12 (2-1 Big West).
“Any conference victory is going to be pretty sweet. The thing that made it more special was that it was a walk-off hit,” senior second baseman Trevor Whyte said. “It gives our team confidence knowing we can battle, stay in there for however long, and come out on top.”
After the Gauchos dropped their conference home opener 6-4 to the Mustangs, left fielder Joe Wallace hit a three-run home run in the eighth to capture a 7-4 victory. After following with Sunday’s nail-biting finish, the Gauchos are off to a hot start in the Big West.
“For them to win that way was a reward for how hard they have been working all year,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Hopefully it will carry us on, but we will still have to pitch well and catch and do all of the things that allow us to be successful.”
UCSB hopes to continue its success against Northridge, who is 16-16 on the season (0-3 Big West). The Matadors (16-16 overall, 0-3 Big West) were swept by #19 UC Irvine (20-8 overall, 4-2 Big West) to open conference play before winning two of their next four nonconference games.
“Tuesday games in the middle of conference can be tough,” Brontsema said. “They are a very good offensive team. Going down to their park is always a challenge and they are a much-improved team from last season.”
Although a matchup between a pair of Big West squads, Tuesday’s game will not count as a conference game and thus will not be included in either team’s conference record. While conference implications are not on the line, the game still gives the Gauchos an important early look at their conference foes and a good test before the team faces #11 Cal State Fullerton — the conference favorites — on the road in a three-game series beginning on Friday.
“I look for it to be a good challenge on the road and hopefully we won’t overlook this game with the Fullerton series this weekend,” Brontsema said. “Hopefully we will be able to play with the same type of energy we played with this weekend.”
Nick Loredo is scheduled to start for the Gauchos on Tuesday, although Brontsema expressed some concern regarding an undisclosed injury sustained by the senior right-hander.
Brontsema noted if Loredo cannot make the start, junior left-hander Zak Edgington would replace him.
Loredo boasts a 3.9 ERA with a 3-1 record in five starts. He has struck out 26 batters in his 30 innings of work while only walking five batters. Junior right-hander Vincent Roberts (0-5, 4/74 ERA) will start for Northridge.
“We have a lot of momentum coming off this weekend so we are going to try to carry that over into tomorrow’s game,” Whyte said. “As long as we throw strikes, play defense and have some timely hitting like we did this week, we will be okay.”
First-pitch in Northridge is scheduled for 3 p.m.