No. 14 Gauchos Host No. 15 Cal State Fullerton in Pivotal Big West Series
• The Schedule
Friday, Apr. 11 at 3:00 p.m. vs. No. 15 CSU Fullerton (17-11, 2-1)
Saturday, Apr. 12 at 2:00 p.m. vs. CSF
Sunday, Apr. 13 at 1:00 p.m. vs. CSF
All-Time Record vs. Titans: 37-101
2013 series: Titans won series 2-1 @ CSF
Cal State Fullerton Streak/Last 10: Won 3/6-4
• Probable Starters
Friday: RHP Austin Pettibone (2-0, 5.11 ERA) vs. RHP Thomas Eshelman (5-1, 1.43 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Shane Bieber (1-1, 3.12 ERA) vs. RHP Grahamm Wiest (2-3, 1.81 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Phil Bickford (3-1, 2.02 ERA)
• UCSB Baseball on the Radio
All three games of the Cal State Fullerton series will be broadcasted live over the air on AM 1290 – Santa Barbara News-Press Radio – and online at UCSBgauchos.com. Gerry Fall, the Voice of the Gauchos, will have the call for all UCSB Baseball broadcasts this season. For links to all UCSBgauchos.com broadcasts, click here.
• Pulse on the Polls
For the sixth consecutive week, the UCSB Baseball program made an appearance in national polls, ranking as high as No. 14 this week (Collegiate Baseball). Elsewhere, they checked in at No. 19 in Perfect Game, No. 22 in Baseball America, and No. 26 in in NCBWA poll. The Gauchos dropped out of the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, but received the most votes of any team outside the top-25.
• RPI Report
Despite losing its series at Cal Poly, UCSB moved up 15 spots in the official NCAA RPI Report to No. 33, second-best in the league. Overall, the Big West Conference has six teams in the top 61 (Cal Poly: 16, Cal State Fullerton: 49, UC Irvine: 53, Long Beach State: 55, Hawai'i: 61).
• Hot at Home
With 12 wins in its first 15 games at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, UCSB is off to its best home start since the 1984 season, when the Al Ferrer-led Gauchos went 14-1 out of the gate.
• Offense vs. Defense
This weekend's matchup between UCSB and Cal State Fullerton will pit the conference's top offense against the conference's top pitching staff. The Gauchos currently lead the conference in scoring (6.63 runs per game, 27th in the country), batting average (.307, 14th), on-base percentage (.400, 12th), slugging (.417, 28th), and stolen bases (61, fourth). Individually, UCSB boasts the conference's top batter in Joey Epperson (conference-best .462 batting average) and top home-run hitter in Tyler Kuresa (conference-best 10 big flies). Meanwhile, Cal State Fullerton entered the week with a league-best 2.05 team ERA (sixth best nationwide) and 0.98 WHIP (third best nationwide) to go along with NCAA-leading strikeout-to-walk (5.62) and walks-per-game (1.48) ratios.
• Clutch Hitting
Throughout the 2014 season, the UCSB offense has shown no hesitance in clutch situations, resulting in a team batting average of .305 with runners in scoring position, just two points off the squad's overall clip. Andrew Calica (.484 average with RISP), Jackson Morrow (.429), Joey Epperson (.393), and Robby Nesovic (.385) have done especially well at driving men in in scoring situations.
• Shortening the Game
UCSB's righty-lefty relief duo of Dillon Tate and Greg Mahle are both having spectacular seasons so far, and have been the main lynchpins in a Gauchos bullpen that has helped the team to a 15-0 record when leading after six innings. Tate, the UCSB closer, ranks among the top-20 nationwide and second in the conference with seven saves and has yet to give up an earned run in 15 innings of work this season. Mahle is second on the team with 32.2 innings pitched and has the lowest qualifying ERA on the team (1.65) despite making zero starts this year.
• Ball Magnets
The Gauchos set a program record with 97 hit by pitches in 2013, and this year's team is on a remarkably similar trajectory HBP-wise. With 53 plunked batters so far this year (1.96 per game), UCSB is on pace to finish the year with 96. The team has only two 90-HBP seasons in its history, with 2002 being the other.
• Tangling With the Titans
This weekend against Cal State Fullerton, UCSB will be looking for its first series win overall against the Titans since the 2007 season and the first series win at home against CSF since 1985.