February 24, 2014

Gauchos Battle Defending National Champ UCLA Before Hosting First Home Series of the Year

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• The Schedule
Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 6:00 p.m. vs. No. 19 UCLA (4-3)
at Jackie Robinson Stadium
All-Time Record vs. UCLA: 35-56
2013 series: 2-0 UCLA
Last meeting: L, 2-1 (5/21/13 @ UCLA)

Friday, Feb. 28 at 2:00 p.m. vs. Princeton (0-0)
Saturday, Mar. 1 at 11:00 a.m. vs Princeton (DH)
Sunday, Mar. 2 at 1:00 p.m. vs. Princeton
at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium
All-Time Record vs. Princeton: First Meeting

• Hit Parade
In the final two games of the San Jose State series, the Gauchos racked up 35 hits: 16 on Saturday and 19 on Sunday. Sunday's hit total was the highest so far in the Checketts era (since 2012) and the most since a 20-hit outburst against Westmont on Feb. 23, 2010. The last time UCSB had so many hits against a Division I opponent was at Cal State Northridge on Mar. 27, 2009. The Gauchos have 16+ hits in back-to-back games after only accruing so many hits three times in all of the 2013 season.

• Ball Magnets
With 97 offensive hit-by-pitches in the 2013 campaign, UCSB set a new program record. It looks like the Gauchos have picked up right where they left off last year, as 10 batters were plunked in the season's opening week, putting them on pace for 130 hit-by-pitches in 2014.

• .400 Club
After the season's first week, UCSB had four regulars with a batting average of .400 (Joey Epperson, Andrew Calica) or better (Peter Maris at .412, Robby Nesovic at .500). Nesovic's strong week garnered the sophomore utilityman a Big West Player of the Week nomination. He had multiple hits and at least one RBI in three of four games. In the one game he did not record a hit, he still reached base three times. He drove in the game winning run on both Friday and Sunday.

• Hot Starters
This is the third time in the past four seasons that UCSB has started with a 3-1 record through the first four games of the year.

• Double Dipping
After serving as the team's closer last year, sophomore righty Dylan Hecht picked up his first two career wins last week, starting on both Tuesday and Sunday. He is just the second UCSB pitcher in the last three years to pickup a midweek win and a weekend win in the same week. Austin Pettibone was the last to accomplish the feat (May 22 vs. USC & May 27, 2012 vs. Bakersfield).

• Battling the Bruins
UCSB will have to tackle quite the opponent in their first road midweek game of the season, as they travel to Westwood to take on UCLA, the 2013 College World Series champion. The Bruins and Gauchos engaged in a late season pitcher's duel last year, the former escaping with a narrow 2-1 win. Justin Jacome and Greg Mahle allowed just two runs total, but a sixth-inning Pat Valaika sac fly was the difference as Tyler Kuresa could drive in the only Gauchos run on the day. UCSB will be looking for its first win over its UC rival since beating the then-No. 13 Bruins on May 11, 2011.

• Deep Stable
As predicted before the season by head coach Andrew Checketts, UCSB's bullpen has been a strong point so far in 2014. In the team's three wins, the pen combined to throw 12 scoreless innings. Seven of the nine relievers to appear for the Gauchos so far have unblemished ERAs. Overall, the bullpen is sporting a 2.40 ERA with 13 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 innings of work, while closer Dillon Tate has converted on his sole save chance. Hector Lujan's three hitless innings with five strikeouts in the season opener against Bakersfield was a particular attention-grabber.

• 2013 in Review
The 2013 season was an unmitigated success for the UCSB baseball program, as the team finished tied for second place in the Big West Conference and earned a trip to the Corvallis, Ore. Regional of the NCAA Tournament, both firsts since the 2001 season. The team's success was especially impressive considering its 20-18 record through 38 games. Checketts led the squad to a 14-6 record, including six consecutive series wins, to close out the regular season. For the first time in school history, the 2013 squad went the entire season without losing a series at home.