Gauchos Win Two of Three at New Mexico, Play Three of Four at Home This Week
March 9, 2004
The Gauchos won two games and lost two games on last week's four-game roadtrip. After falling 3-2 in a twelve-inning marathon against UCLA last Tuesday, the Gauchos battled blisteringly cold weather in New Mexico and took two of three from the Lobos. Against the Bruins, the Gauchos trailed 2-0 into the eighth, but with the help of walks and wild pitches, the Gauchos were able to knot it up and send the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the twelvth, UCLA catcher Chris Denove belted his first home run of the year over the centerfield wall for the game-winning shot. After just one day of workouts following the loss, UCSB embarked on its only out-of-state trip of the season. Friday's game against the University of New Mexico was postponed due to snow, forcing a doubleheader on Saturday. The Gauchos pounded out 27 hits in the two games and defeated the Lobos by scores of 11-10 and 8-7. Steve Morlock improved to 2-3 with 5.1 effective innings pitched in game one and Rich Sorenson (1-0) tallied his first win of the year with 1.1 relief innings in game two. David Figoni, Taylor Vogt and Chris Valaika all went deep for UCSB in the nightcap. On Sunday, an eighth inning grandslam off the bat of Lobo second baseman Ryan Barba was too much for the Gauchos to overcome and eventually fell in the finale 6-3.
This week, the Gauchos return west for four games, three of which will be played at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. On Tuesday, Loyola Marymount will ride into Santa Barbara for a mid-week, non-conference matchup. Then on Thursday, the Gauchos will begin a three-game, non-conference home-away-home series with the Cal Poly Mustangs.
Taking the Hill vs. LMU (Tuesday) and Cal Poly (Thursday - Saturday)
Tuesday - Freshman right-hander Brian Tracy (1-0) will make his second start of the year Tuesday against Loyola Marymount.
Thursday - Sophomore right-hander Michael Martin (4-0) will assume staff ace role as new weekend-opening starter.
Friday - Sophomore right-hander Steve Morlock (2-3) looks to even his record in his sixth start of the year.
Saturday - Freshman right-hander Andy Graham will make his third career start.
Wild, Wild "Big West"
With just under a month to play before the Gauchos enter Big West play, here's a look at how UCSB is stacking up against conference opponents at the plate (Gauchos' conference rank in parentheses). Batting: .307 (2nd), Runs Scored: 125 (3rd), Slugging Percentage: .439 (2nd), Triples: 6 (2nd), On-base Percentage: .393 (1st), Runs Batted In: 111 (3rd), Home Runs: 13 (2nd), Stolen Bases: 22 (3rd).
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.
Scouting the Lions
Fresh off of its three-game sweep of the University of San Diego, Loyola Marymount enters Tuesday's contest with a record of 10-4 and a five-game winning streak. The Lions, who have not lost since February 28, have outscored their opponents 49-18 in those five games and have lowered their team ERA to an impressive 3.63. As a team the Lions are hitting .272, led by sophomore infielder Kyle Mura. The right-handed hitting second baseman is batting .388 with 13 RBI. The Lions expected starting pitcher for the game, Daniel Macias. is 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in ten innings pitched.
Heading into the 111th all-time matchup between the schools, the Gauchos and Lions are knotted at 55 wins apiece. UCSB took two of three from Loyola last year in Los Angeles. The Gauchos took games one and two of the three-game series by scores of 6-2 in twelve innings and 14-8 in ten innings. The Lions salvaged the finale with an 8-5 victory.
Head Coach Frank Cruz
Frank Cruz is in his eighth season directing the LMU baseball program. He claimed three consecutive West Coast Conference Championships for the first time in school history and earned three straight appearances in the NCAA Regionals from 1998-2000. Cruz was selected by USA Baseball in January as head coach of the 2004 national team.
Scouting the Mustangs
Cal Poly will also enter its series against the Gauchos having just swept its most recent opponent. Over last weekend, the Mustangs took all three games against the Nevada Wolfpack, outscoring them by 14 runs. Coming into the three-game home-away-home series Cal Poly will boast a 17-7-1 record. The Mustangs have nine hitters batting over .300 with Chalon Tietje, who was named Big West Player of the Week on Monday, posting a .424 mark. The senior outfielder has 39 hits, including 13 doubles, two home runs and 26 RBI. His mark in hits, doubles and RBI leads all Big West players. The Gauchos are expecting to see junior right-hander Jimmy Shull on Friday and sophomore southpaw Garret Olsen on Saturday. The Mustangs are undecided on their Thursday starter. Shull is 5-1 with a 3.53 ERA and Olsen is 3-2 with a 3.98 ERA. As a staff, Cal Poly has posted an impressive 3.30 ERA.
UCSB holds the all-time series edge 75-32 over the Mustangs and also hold a 23-17 upperhand over Cal Poly since the Mustangs moved to Division 1 in 1995. Last season, the Gauchos took two of three over the Mustangs in the teams' season-ending series.
Head Coach Larry Lee
Larry Lee enters his second season at the helm. In his first year, he piloted the Mustangs to a 27-28-1 record. Before that, Lee had accumulated a 460-241-3 record at Cuesta College.
Malec Honored by Big West Conference
Junior second baseman Chris Malec was named Co-Big West Player of the Week on Monday, March 1, by the conference. The Laguna Niguel, Calif., native exploded for a .368 batting average over four games that week while driving in ten RBI and scoring four runs. In the Gauchos' 22-9 victory over Fresno State on Feb. 28, Malec went 3-for-6 with five RBI and two doubles. He collected hits in each of the Gauchos' games during the week. Malec also stole two bases over the week and posted a .474 slugging percentage. The selection was a first for Malec and also marked the first time any Gaucho had been awarded the honor since Mike Kolbach on April 23, 2001.
Freshman On Fire
Rookie shortstop Chris Valaika has been nothing short of exceptional over the past two weeks. The right-handed hitting freshman is hitting .500 over UCSB's last eight games, including ten singles, three doubles, a triple and two home runs. In that span he has also driven in eight RBI. After UCSB's first nine games, Valaika was batting an unimpressive .194, now after 17 games he is fifth on the team with a .323 mark, meaning he has raised his clip .129 points over 26 official at-bats. Valaika is also tied for the team lead in doubles (5), fourth in slugging percentage (.532), fourth in on-base percentage (.411) and ranks among the top five Gauchos in six other offensive categories including hits, RBI and home runs.
Setting The Bar
In its wild 22-9 comeback win against Fresno State on February 28, UCSB knocked out a season-high 24 hits including home runs off the bats of shortstop Chris Valaika, designated hitter Greg Powers and first baseman Bill Rowe. In the offensive explosion the Gauchos tied a season-high in runs (22) and at-bats (48), while setting new marks for hits (24), RBI (22), doubles (5), home runs (3) and total bases (38). Those 24 hits are the most by any Big West team so far this season.
If other teams are wondering why UCSB has been so productive at the plate this season, they can just look at the Gauchos' bench numbers. Santa Barbara's pinch-hitters are hitting an unprecedented .300 (9-for-30). Overall, Gaucho non-starters are hitting .367 with 13 runs and 12 RBI.
The Gauchos are outscoring their opponents 125-102 this season. Most notably, UCSB is having its most successful innings later in the game as it has outscored opponents 24-11 in the seventh and 20-11 in the eighth. The second innings also seems to be one of the Gauchos' favorite times to hit as they have outscored opponents 17-9 in that frame.
Lovin' the Clean-Up Duties
Sophomore Bill Rowe has started all 17 games this year, but has been slotted in four different spots in the Gaucho lineup. In the three spot, Rowe is hitting just .250, in the five spot he's posted a .207 average, but hitting clean-up Rowe is stroking a remarkable .429 mark with a home run and six RBI in three games. He has also started six games in the six spot, where he is hitting .414.
Holding It Down
While UCSB's offense has demoralized opposing bullpens into a 8.65 ERA, the Gaucho relief core has posted a very respectable 3.56 ERA in 73.1 innings. The UCSB bullpen is holding opponents to just .229 average.