No. 15 UCSB Baseball Looks to Stay Hot Against Wagner

Austin Pettibone (Photo by Mark Ylen)

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For audio links to all games and tonight's Talk'n Gauchos broadcast featuring Andrew Checketts and Joey Epperson, click here.

• The Schedule
Friday, Mar. 21 at 3:00 p.m. vs. Wagner College (2-11)
Saturday, Mar. 22 at 12:00 p.m. vs. Wagner (doubleheader)
Saturday, Mar. 23 at 1:00 p.m. vs. Wagner
All-Time Record vs. Wagner: First Ever Meeting
Wagner Road Record: 1-11
Wagner Streak: Lost 3

• Probable Starters
Friday: LHP Justin Jacome (3-0, 1.30 ERA)
Saturday (first game): RHP Robby Nesovic (1-1, 2.53 ERA)
Saturday (second game): RHP Austin Pettibone (season debut)
Sunday: LHP Domenic Mazza (1-1, 4.95 ERA)

• Checketts and Epperson to Appear on Talk'n Gauchos
UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts and third baseman/outifielder Joey Epperson will join Gerry Fall – the Voice of the Gauchos – on Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. for Talk'n Gauchos, UCSB Athletics' weekly radio program. The show is broadcasted every Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. at the beautiful Beachside Bar Cafe on Goleta Beach. The show can be heard over the air locally on AM 1290 – Santa Barbara News-Press radio – or online by clicking here. Men's volleyball head coach Rick McLaughlin will be the other featured guest on tonight's show.

• UCSBgauchos.com to Carry All Baseball Games Online This Weekend
UCSB Athletics and Learfield Sports will team up to bring fans all four games of this weekend's baseball series against Wagner. Coverage begins 15 minutes before each contest with a pregame show. Gerry Fall will have the call for you all weekend, and the broadcasts can be streamed here.

• Rankings Report
Following another strong week, with a Tuesday triumph over Pepperdine and a series win against Wichita State, the Gauchos jumped up in the two polls in which they debuted last week and cracked the top-25 of another in which they had been receiving votes. This week, UCSB checks in at No. 15 in the Collegiate Baseball poll (previously 20), No. 19 in Baseball America (prev. 23), and No. 20 in Perfect Game (prev. unranked). UCSB received the most votes among all unranked teams in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, and also received votes in the NCBWA poll.

• Fabulous Fifteen
UCSB's No. 15 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball poll is the program's highest spot in any national poll since the 1987 preseason poll, when they slotted in at No. 11.

• RPI Rulers
Though the official NCAA RPI hasn't made its debut yet this season, the Gauchos are tabbed at No. 11 in the Boyd's World rankings, which aims to replicate the NCAA formula. At No. 11, UCSB is tops among Big West schools and second among all west coast programs (Stanford).

• Sensational Start
Sitting at 13-3, UCSB is off to one of the best starts in team history, as this is currently the best 16-game start to a Gauchos season since 1984, when the Al Ferrer-led Gauchos went a program-best 15-1 out of the gate.

• Return of the Pettibone
UCSB's 2013 Friday starter, Austin Pettibone, is set to make his season debut this weekend after missing the first month of the season with a shoulder injury. Pettibone was a dependable workhorse for UCSB last year, tossing 117.2 innings (6th most in program history) while becoming the team's first 10-win pitcher since 2001. The All-Big West Second Teamer finished the year with a 10-3 record and a 2.98 ERA.

• Series Clinchers
With another series win this past weekend, UCSB extended its hot streak dating back to last season.  The Gauchos have won or split their past 14 series, and have won nine straight series of 3+ games. The last time UCSB had such sustained success was when they won/split 18 straight series and won nine straight 3+ game series between the 1986 and 1987 seasons.

• Hot At Home
UCSB is starting to make early season dominance at Caesar Uyesaka a near-annual tradition. This is the third time in the past five seasons that the Gauchos have started off with a 6-1 home record (also occured in 2011 and 2010). This is the best home start under Andrew Checketts.

• Epperson Stays Hot
Senior leadoff hitter Joey Epperson has literally and figuratively been at the forefront of UCSB's offensive surge to start the season. The senior, who has spent time at third base and left field this season, is currently sporting a 22 game hit streak, hitting safely in all 16 contests this season after carrying in a six-game streak from last season. The Lafayette, Calif. native boasts the second highest batting average in the NCAA (.484, just four behind leader Isaac Smith of Bradley) and the second highest on-base percentage (.566) among hitters with more than 40 at bats. The righty is an all-around threat, leading the nation in runs per game (1.13), and ranking among the conference top-10 in home runs (three, fifth), stolen bases per game (0.5, first), and slugging percentage (.677, second), all while being the fifth toughest batter to strike out in the nation (62 at bats per K). Epperson has been a Big West Field Player of the Week nominee in each of the past three weeks, taking home the award on Mar. 3 after hitting .588 and collecting multiple hits in each game of the Princeton series.

• To First Base, and Beyond!
Junior second baseman Woody Woodward has displayed he possesses all-world on-base talent ever since suiting up for the Gauchos. Woodward has reached base in 68 of 71 career starts in blue-and-gold, including a current 16-game streak of reaching safely to start the season. Woody was able to get on base in his first 44 starts of 2013, and may have had more if an injury didn't knock him out of the streak-ending game early on May 24.

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