The UCSB baseball team’s quest for its first Big West Title since 1986 will take a small break this week as the squad prepares to face Stephen F. Austin State University for its final non-conference series of the 2019 campaign.
Santa Barbara is coming in red-hot as winners of three of its last four, including two of three wins at Fullerton in its conference opener, to boast a strong 20-5 overall record to this point. The Gauchos 2-1 conference record places them in second in the league standings, but they are the first team to reach 20 wins of any Big West team.
Polar opposites of UCSB, Stephen F. Austin rolls into town one game under .500 sitting at 14-16 overall after losing six of its last seven ball games but is 8-4 in conference play. In those six losses, SFA lost by a combined score of 54-12.
That does not bode well for the Lumberjacks considering they are playing one of hotter offenses in the Big West.
UCSB ranks first in the league in multiple categories including runs scored (185), extra-base hits (70), home runs (29), slugging percentage (.493) and is tied for first in batting average (.287) and on-base percentage (.385).
A big reason for UCSB’s hot offense is junior catcher Eric Yang. The West Hills, Calif. native is currently having the season of a lifetime holding a league best .419 batting average. No other player in the Big West even has above a .400.
Yang is also delivering when it counts as he is second in the Big West with 28 RBI’s. The juniors .513 on-base percentage is also tops in the league while his .591 slugging percentage ranks sixth.
On Monday, the Big West announced that Yang was awarded Player of the Week. Yang hit .500 (7-for-14) in the three-game series against Cal State Fullerton, adding a home run to go along with six RBIs and four runs scored.
He also went 1-4 in last Tuesday’s game against St. Mary’s with his one hit being a double. There have only been four games where the catcher has not registered a hit and he has had a multiple-hit game fourteen times this season.
Other hot hitters include outfielders Tevin Mitchell, Tommy Jew and Armani Smith.
Mitchell has been on fire as of late batting 10-24 in his last six games smacking six doubles. Before this recent stretch, he only had one double on the year. He has also knocked in seven of his 22 RBI’s and his 13 stolen bases tops the league.
Jew has probably been the biggest bat in the lineup for the Gauchos. He currently slashes .303/.385/.667 with his slugging percentage ranking second in the Big West. The junior center fielder also has the second most dingers in the Big West with eight on the year.
Right behind Jew, however, is Smith who has seven home runs on then season which ranks third in the league. Smith has been an extra-base hit machine having five doubles and a team high five triples. His 24 RBI’s are the second most on the team.
Just seeing how tough most of the Gaucho lineup is scary for the Lumberjacks who currently holds a team ERA of 5.21. That ERA ranks in the bottom half of the entire NCAA.
In terms of starters, Alex Palmer has started all seven of his appearances and holds a 3.20 ERA.
Batting wise, freshman ourfielder Brandon Uhse has carried the bulk of the offense. He leads the team in batting average with a .310%. Uhse also has the most multiple hit game with 11.
Overall, this should be a good weekend for UCSB. Facing a weaker pitching staff than it did last week should be a nice change of pace before heading back into conference play.
UCSB faces SFA for game one of the three-game set at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 5 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
A version of this article appeared on p. 7 of the Jan. 17, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.