The UCSB baseball team will pack up the pine tar for a three-game road series against San Jose State this weekend. After dropping three of four games in a seven-error showing against No. 23 Oregon State last weekend, the Gauchos will look to reverse their fielding woes in what will be the first road series of the season.
“In the past we’ve been a little more of a strikeout power team, which doesn’t work super well against those guys up there in the big ballpark,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “We have some more versatility, short game, hit-and-run and bunt [strategies], those things will work for us.”
UCSB, currently 1-3 overall, will face a San Jose State team that was chosen to finish No. 2 overall in the Western Athletic Conference in preseason polls. The Spartans are currently 1-2 on the season and winless at home, with the pair of losses coming against the University of San Francisco 0-4 and 1-5.
The Gauchos stayed close throughout the series against Oregon State, but were unable to sustain offensive rallies by the Beavers on multiple occasions, resulting in several innings of four runs or more by OSU.
“A big part of the errors was that our guys were on their heels because we didn’t throw a lot of strikes,” Checketts said. “If we throw more strikes our defense will get better, and vice versa.”
On the mound for UCSB this Friday will be senior lefthander Kevin Gelinas followed by freshman lefthander Andrew Vasquez on Saturday and senior righthander Matt Vedo on Sunday. Together, the three pitchers contribute to the Gauchos’ 3.79 ERA through the first four games this season.
“Gelinas is a fastball guy,” Checketts said. “He was up to 95 [miles per hour] last weekend and was consistent.”
A new challenge that Checketts and his squad will face this weekend will be playing during the night, as UCSB’s home field of Caesar Uyesaka Stadium has no lights, and the Gauchos have yet to play a night game this year.
“I know their ball park is a pitching ball park,” Checketts said. “It’ll be the first time our hitters have seen pitching under the lights. It’s harder to hit at night than it is during the day. The biggest challenge is going to be adapting to that.”
The Spartans, however, have the advantage of playing under their home field lights, a fact that San Jose State freshman outfielder Andre Mercurio will attempt to take full advantage of. Mercurio has six hits through his first nine at bats this season, good enough for a .667 batting average, a team-leading figure.
For the Gauchos, junior outfielder Brett Vertigan is a team-leading offensive threat. Vertigan had two triples, five RBIs and a .571 on-base percentage against Oregon State.
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium.