UCSB Opens 2004 Baseball Season This Weekend at San Diego State

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Feb. 4, 2004

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
The Schedule
Game No. 1, 2, 3
Friday, February 6, 2004 at 6:00 p.m. (PST)
Saturday, February 7, 2004 at 1:00 p.m. (PST)
Sunday, February 8, 2004 at 1:00 p.m. (PST)
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. San Diego State Aztecs at Tony Gwynn Stadium

A Look Back at 2003
UC Santa Barbara finished last season with 25-28 overall record and a 8-13 mark in the Big West Conference. Despite a tough pre-season schedule followed by several untimely injuries, the Gauchos were able to improve on their 2002 record and see four players sign professional contracts. Injuries to second baseman Chris Malec, left fielder Blair Havens, and first baseman Josh McCanne forced Head Coach Bob Brontsema to manage with "one arm tied behind his back." However, the health situation allowed for the emergence of several players who whill return to play an even more significant role in 2004. Then-freshman Bill Rowe stepped into the first base role and compiled invaluable experience while fellow newcomer Steve Morlock tallied a near-record nine saves. Third baseman Nate Sutton exploded with a breakout junior season in which he led the team in runs scored (42) and batted a career high .318. Pitchers Matt Vasquez and Sean Thompson, along with catcher Chad Ziemendorf and shortstop Josh Fulton all signed with major league clubs at season's end.

Returnees
The Gauchos return 21 letterman in 2004, led by juniors Matt Wilkerson and Malec. In their two years in Santa Barbara, Wilkerson and Malec have hit a combined 30 home runs and driven in 156 runs. Also returning to handle the hot corner for UCSB is Sutton. The three-year starter has a career .286 batting average and is coming off a superb junior season in which he led the teams in runs scored, hits and total bases. In the outfield, Brontsema brings back seven 2003 Gauchos who will battle for time in left and centerfield. With Wilkerson holding down the spot in rightfield, sophomores like Matt Emerick, Chris Caraballo, and Gabe Mann will compete with senior Brian Adams for playing time in left and center field. Behind the plate, senior Taylor Vogt, who will also see time as a designated hitter, returns for his final season. The senior slugger has a career .290 average and has knocked 14 doubles, two triples, and three home runs. Sophomore Josh LaGrotta will also vie for more innings.. On the mound the Gauchos are young but boast an impressive collection of veterans like seniors James Dayley and Ivan Ramirez and junior Eric Posthumus. Returning for their sophomore campaigns are Steve Morlock and Michael Martin.

The Rotation
If there is one thing that Brontsema has working in his favor on the mound - it's depth. Despite having no hurler with more than 118 innings of career college experience, the Gaucho staff is stacked deep with guys who can take the game ball or who can be relied upon out of the bullpen. Morlock, a sophomore, has moved away from last year's closer role and has earned the start in the Gauchos' season opener. He will be followed on the mound by Dayley on Saturday and Martin on Sunday.

The Brontsema File
Bob Brontsema enters his 11th season as head coach of the UC Santa Barbara baseball program. Last year Brontsema logged his 250th victory, becoming the third coach in school history to do so, and also cementing himself as the third winningest coach in UCSB history. He enters this season with a career mark of 263-269. Brontsema's team ended the 2003 season 25-28 overall and 8-13 in Big West Conference play. Brontsema's has been selected twice as Big West Coach of the Year. In 2001, his team finished with a mark of 40-17, good for a .701 winning percentage, the highest in school history. Brontsema's 2001squad also had 10 players sign professional contracts after the season. Brontsema was also selected as Big West Coach of the Year in 1996, when he piloted UCSB to a 32-20 overall mark and 14-7 showing in conference play.

Probable Gaucho Starters
Vs. Right-handers
C Taylor Vogt
1B Bill Rowe
2B Chris Malec
3B Nate Sutton
SS Chris Valaika
LF Matt Emerick
CF Brian Adams
RF Matt Wilkerson
DH Greg Powers

Vs. Left-handers
C Matt Kalafatis
1B Bill Rowe
2B Chris Malec
3B Nate Sutton
SS Chris Valaika
LF Matt Stevens
CF Emerick / Gabe Mann
RF Matt Wilkerson
DH David Figoni

On the Mound
Friday vs. SDSU's Scott Shoemaker
Steve Morlock (So. RHP)
2003 3-6, 5.31 ERA, 37 K
Saturday vs. SDSU's Ben Coon
James Dayley (Sr. RHP)
2002 1-3, 7.84 ERA
Sunday vs. SDSU's Chris Hartshorn
Michael Martin (So. RHP)
2003 2-3, 7.29 ERA, 36 K

Scouting the Aztecs
With second-year head coach Tony Gwynn at the helms, San Diego State brings a young but potentially dangerous team to the table in 2004. Having already tallied a 4-4 record this spring against Hawai'i Hilo and Sacramento State, unlike UCSB, the Aztecs' season is in full swing. So far in 2004, Gwynn's squad is hitting an impressive .298 and has a team ERA of 5.24. Scott Shoemaker (1-0, 4.91) and Chris Hartshorn (2-0, 5.11) have been leading the way on the mound. The Aztecs have five starters hitting over .300 including designated hitter Brook Ungricht (.448), center fielder David Hall (.385) and catcher Jordan Swaydan (.333). After winning three games of a five game series at Hawai'i Hilo, San Diego State returned home and dropped two of three to Sacramento State in a series which saw just a seven run differencial. In the series finale against the Hornets, Ungricht went 4-for-5 with a run scored and three RBI.

Series Record
San Diego State holds a 28-6 series lead over UCSB, but before last year the Gauchos had not lost since 1987. Before reuniting for a season-opening series last year, the teams' last meeting came at San Diego State in 1998, a contest UC Santa Barbara won, 20-1. In 2003, the Gauchos took the series opener with an intense, well-pitched 2-1 victory, but dropped the final two games 2-10 and 3-6.

Head Coach Tony Gwynn
San Diego State is led by second-year head coach Tony Gwynn. Gwynn led the Aztecs to a 29-32 overall record in his inagural season while coaching them to a 18-12 conference record, good for a second place finish in the Mountain West Conference. He played for the Aztecs from 1979 to 1981 before starting a 20-year major league career with the San Diego Padres. Gwynn retired in 2001, but not before capturing eight batting titles, five gold gloves and a career batting average of .338.