An extra motivation will be added for the UCSB baseball team during this weekend’s series against Cal State Fullerton. Not only will the Gauchos play in the final conference home games of the season, which doubles as an opportunity to recognize the team’s seniors, but the Fullerton Titans are currently ranked No. 1 in the Big West Conference standings.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” junior outfielder Brett Vertigan said. “It’s been the same structure at practice this week, but we’ve been really focused.”

UCSB currently stands at No. 5 in conference rankings with a 9-9 league record and a 23-22 mark overall. Fullerton tallies a league-leading 12-3 record and is 30-14 on the season.

The Gauchos enter the series after a 0-3 showing against UC Irvine on the road last weekend. Irvine contained the UCSB offense to just four runs in the series, including two shutout losses. UCSB’s Vertigan led the team with three hits on the weekend, while freshman left-handed pitcher Andrew Vasquez only allowed one run in 6.1 innings pitched.

The Titans are coming off a three-game series sweep against Pacific on the road last weekend, and a solo- game series win against USC just days before. In its last 11 games, Fullerton is 9-2 overall, with five wins coming on the road.

A dynamic to watch for throughout the weekend will be the play that originates behind the plate for each team. While Fullerton is tied for No. 1 in the league with a .285 batting average, and leads the league with a .366 on-base percentage, UCSB is No. 4 in both categories. Vertigan currently leads the league in batting average with a .371 mark and is No. 2 in on-base percentage behind teammate sophomore infielder Brandon Trinkwon.

However, the defensive play of both teams will likely determine who takes the wins this weekend. Both squads boast impressive statistics in regards to allowing runs for opponents; Fullerton gives up just 3.59 runs per game while UCSB allows only 4.62.

“I feel like pitching is going to be strong in this series too,” Vertigan said. “I think it’s going to be similar to the Irvine series. Not a bunch of runs scored … we have three solid pitchers going out there and I know they have some good guys too.”

The Gauchos could potentially break into the top three teams in league with a strong showing against Fullerton this weekend, which would further their chances of post- season success.

“If we win these three against Fullerton, and then the next three against Cal Poly, we still have a chance to take first in league,” Vertigan said. “But a lot of things have to go into that happening.”

First pitch is set for today at 3 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.