With their hopes of a Big West title slowly dwindling, the UCSB baseball team will travel south for a vital three-game series against Northridge in hopes of keeping their championship chances alive

[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]After losing two of three to Riverside on the road last weekend, the Gauchos stand at 19-19 overall and 5-7 in the Big West and are in serious need of a series victory to move up in the conference standings.

“It’s probably one of the most important series for us this year,” senior right-handed pitcher Greg Davis said. “We just had a tough series against Riverside so I think we really need to bounce back to put ourselves back into the upper half of the Big West standings.”

The Gauchos already faced Northridge twice this season, both nonconference games. In an April 12 contest at Northridge, the Matadors took down the Gauchos 3-2, while UCSB won an April 26 decision at home by a score of 6-4.

“I think it’s going to be different,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “It’s going to be tough — they’ve thrown some tough arms against us. But midweek games are different than weekends. We’ll take something from those games, but not a whole lot.”

Northridge stands at 18-25 on the season and is last in the conference with a 1-11 mark. The Matadors are currently on a six-game losing streak since their April 21 victory over Pacific.

Usual Saturday-starter Davis will take the mound for the Gauchos on Friday to open up the series. Davis is 4-3 on the season with a 3.39 ERA in 58.1 innings pitched for the Gauchos.

“I don’t think it will put any extra pressure on me,” Davis said. “I’m looking forward to my first Friday start; it’s a big deal for me.”

Ahead of Northridge by just four games in the Big West, the Gauchos are in need of victories to ensure they do not fall to the Big West cellar.

“We haven’t won that many Friday games this year and Friday is really the day that sets the tone for the whole weekend,” Davis said. “If we can jump out early and get a win, the rest of the weekend will look good for us.”

Senior left-handed pitcher Nick Capito will get the call for the Gauchos on Saturday. Capito, who will be making his third start of the season, has a 4-2 record with a 3.20 ERA in 45 innings pitched.

Capping off the series will be senior right-hander Jesse Meaux. Meaux — the usual Friday starter — holds a 3-5 record to go along with a 3.70 ERA in a team-leading 65.2 innings pitched.

“We’ve got confidence that he will put us in a position where we can win the ballgame,” senior right fielder Mark Haddow said. “This team is very beatable so we’ve got to go in there to get a sweep. It’s really important for our season.”

Haddow leads the Gauchos with five home runs and 35 RBI to go along with his .338 batting average. As of late, Haddow and senior center fielder and leadoff batter Derek Eligio have proven to be a productive combination for the Gauchos.

“I love hitting with guys on base because it gives me opportunities to get those RBI,” Haddow said. “I feel like I perform better when those guys are on base because it makes me want to put runs on the board for the team.”

Eligio has a .279 average — third on the team — after going 4-12 and driving in two runs in the past series against Riverside.

“It’s really important for your leadoff guy to provide a spark and get on base,” Brontsema said. “Derek’s done a good job of that since he has been put in that spot. Right now we are playing the hot hand with Derek.”

First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Matador Field.