The rain and the wins seem to be the main storylines for the UCSB baseball team this season. Not only was its home opener pushed to a road series but two of Santa Barbara’s games have been canceled in just the first three weeks of the season.
Now, however, UCSB is heading out south for its first true three-game road series of the 2019 campaign as it faces Tulane University. Even more ridiculous, Sunday’s forecast in Tulane, Louisiana currently calls for rain.
Regardless, focusing on things the Gauchos can control, they have had an excellent start to the season currently boasting an 8-2 overall mark after winning their sixth straight game when they beat Pepperdine 5-3 on Monday for a series sweep. UCSB is also 4-2 on the road.
As for Tulane, it too has had a hot start to the year as it boasts a 10-3 overall mark and is an excellent 7-2 at home. The Green Wave have also won four of their last five ballgames.
For UCSB, it started the season all about offense. In its first seven games of the year, Santa Barbara scored 65 runs for an average of 9.3 runs per game.
Since then, however, the run total has slowed down as the Gauchos have mustered just 3.3 runs per contest. The important thing though, UCSB still won all three of its games thanks to some great pitching performances.
Against USC on Tuesday, Feb. 26, sophomore Jack Dashwood was absolutely spectacular. The San Diego native took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and struck out a career-high 10 batters while earning the win in a 2-1 victory over the Trojans.
Overall, Dashwood allowed just one run on two hits. His 10 K’s were also the most by a Gaucho pitcher since Noah Davis struck out 10 against Tulane back in 2017. This performance helped the sophomore earn his first career Big West Pitcher of the Week honor.
On March 1, Ben Brecht, the junior southpaw who figures to be the Friday starter this week, also had a terrific performance tossing 6.1 innings five hits, two runs while striking out nine.
If you could imagine, the key difference in the pitching staff this year for UCSB has been the strikeouts. Through the first 10 games last year, Santa Barbara’s staff had 84 strikeouts. This year it already has 104. As a staff, Santa Barbara also hasn’t allowed too many walks with just 26 base on balls.
It also helps that while the starters are getting the job done, so are the relievers. Junior righty Chris Lincoln comes to mind when UCSB needs to get out of a jam. The Moreno Valley, Calif. native has four saves on the year already allowing just nine hits and three runs in 10.2 innings pitched. He has also struck out 10 batters.
Still, UCSB will have some tough opposition this week in Tulane. Junior Kody Hoese slashes .404/.455/.754 this season with 16 RBI’s. Hoese is the only batter with a plus .400 average.
Even scarier, four of the Green Waves everyday starters also bat above .300 including Jonathon Artigues who leads the team in RBI’s with 17. Senior infielder Trevor Jensen bats .386 with a team-high six doubles.
As for UCSB, while its offense has hit a bit of a bump, it still is dominating. As a team, the Gauchos bat .268 while slugging .471 and holding an on-base percentage of .367. Their 13 home runs are tied for 17th for the most in the nation.
Juniors Eric Yang and Tommy Jew have been some of the more consistent bats this season.
Yang leads the team in batting average hitting .447 and has knocked in the most runs with 12. The catcher’s .678 slugging percentage also ranks third on the team.
As for Jew, the center fielder has been great as expected on the defensive end and as the leadoff hitter he has done well batting .268. Where he shines is his slugging which is .762, the best mark on the team. His four home runs also lead the team.
Overall, Santa Barbara has some steep competition when it travels to Louisiana, but it also has some momentum. The last two years through 10 games, Santa Barbara was just 4-6 in both seasons. Being 8-2 this year certainly is a sign that this is a new team.
Even if the Gauchos do not complete a sweep and win nine straight once the series is over, a road series victory would be a huge boost for confidence.
UCSB faces Tulane at 4:30 p.m. pacific time on Friday, March 8 at Turchin Stadium. Saturday’s match will be noon pacific while Sunday’s will be at 11 a.m. pacific with both matches being played at the same location.
A version of this article appeared on p. 8 of the March 7, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.