The UCSB baseball team will jump back into conference action this weekend when rival Cal Poly comes to town.
The two teams will meet for their second series this year but for the first time with Big West records on the line. The Mustangs won the series two games to one in that meeting back on March 22 to 24.
“Having seen them already, we will know more specifically what to look for and what approaches we want to go up there with,” junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon said. “Last time out it was the first time we faced them, so now most of us have experience with a couple at bats against them, so this time we need to be more aggressive and not be content taking pitches we could hit.”
The winner in each game of the last series was the home team, as the rivals swapped home field advantage each game with Cal Poly playing home first. Santa Barbara fell 7-0 in game one, took game two 7-3 then dropped game three 10-4.
The 20-6 Mustangs hold the second-best overall record in the Big West Conference and are in a three-way tie for first at 3-0 in Big West action, while the Gauchos remain just about .500 with a 14-13 record and 1-2 in the Big West.
The Gauchos’ offense played well in games two and three of the first series. Trinkwon, sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa and sophomore left fielder Steven Fisher each homered in game two which was the biggest display of power the Gauchos have managed in a single game this year.
However, game one was a much different story as the Gauchos were not only shut out, but ace pitcher sophomore Austin Pettibone was roughed up in the loss. It was the worst outing for Pettibone this year as he allowed six runs on 10 hits, two of them home runs.
Opposite of Pettibone that day was senior pitcher Joey Wagman, who threw quite a gem for the Mustangs. Wagman allowed just two hits in seven innings while striking out 11 Gauchos en route to his fifth win of the year.
Wagman is currently 6-1 with 59 strikeouts — tops in the Big West — in 46 innings and a .208 opponent batting average.
Cal Poly is coming off of a sweep of UC Davis last weekend, a series in which the Mustangs senior second baseman Denver Chavez recorded seven hits in 15 at bats to boost his already impressive batting average to .390 and his 41 base hits lead the Big West.
The Gauchos will count on Pettibone to bounce back to form this weekend as he leads the Gauchos with a 2.92 earned run average through 48 and two-thirds innings.
Projected game two starter freshman Justin Jacome can make it two in a row against the Mustangs as he was the winning pitcher against Cal Poly a couple weeks ago when he allowed just three runs in six-and-a-third innings while striking out four.
“[Our pitchers] can’t be scared. They need to come out and throw strikes and show off their stuff,” Trinkwon said. “We have great arms so if they are able to pound the zone and not be afraid, they should be fine.”
The Blue-Green Rivalry continues this weekend with the first pitch set for Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium followed by a Saturday 2 p.m. game and the series finale will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.