UCSB Hosts Oral Roberts in Three-Game Series Beginning Thursday

March 23, 2005

The Schedule
Thursday-Saturday, March 24-26, 2005
UC Santa Barbara vs. Oral Roberts
Note: The Thursday and Friday games are at 2:00 p.m., the Saturday game will start at 1:00 p.m.

The Series
UC Santa Barbara and Oral Roberts will square-off for the first time ever. The Gauchos and Golden Eagles will play three-games.

The Gaucho Record
UCSB will enter the series against Oral Roberts with an 11-11 overall record. After struggling through a stretch when they lost seven out of eight, the Gauchos have gone 3-1 in their last four games. UCSB is 6-5 in home games this season.

The Gauchos On The Air
All but four of UCSB's remaining games will be broadcast live on KIST 1340-AM in Santa Barbara. With the exception of a rainout makeup game on March 28 at Cal Poly, and the three game series at UC Davis on April 8-10, all games will be aired. In addition, all of the games carried by KIST will also be available on UCSB's official athletic website, www.UCSBgauchos.com, as part of College Sports Network's College Sports Pass.

Golden Eagle Update
Oral Roberts, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2004, enters their series against UCSB with a record of 13-6. The Golden Eagles opened the season with a 6-5 record, but they have won six straight and seven of eight as they prepare to play the Gauchos. In its last game, Oral Roberts topped 22nd-ranked Wichita State by a score of 4-1. The Golden Eagles have a team ERA of 2.59, and two of their starters, Taylor McIntyre and Dennis Bigley, have ERAs under 3.00. Despite a 2.16 ERA, and 42 strikeouts in 33.1 innings, McIntyre sports just a 2-4 record. Bigley is a perfect 4-0. Offensively, ORU is led by Jon Tackett who is batting .389. Ricky Rivera is at .314, while Michael Hollimon is batting .307 with four home runs and 19 RBI. When he is not pitching, Bigley is in the lineup as designated hitter, and he paces the team with 20 RBI.

Making A Pitch For Success
UCSB enters the weekend with a team earned run average of 4.60, and while that figure won't be setting any records, it is actually better than it appears. If you remove one game from the mix, a 17-4 loss at Washington on March 6, the team's ERA is a very respectable 3.98. Also, in the five games since the loss the Huskies, UCSB has allowed just 14 earned runs in 44 innings, a solid 2.86 ERA, and the staff has not allowed home run in its last five outings.

Where There's A Wilkerson, There's A Way
Senior right fielder Matt Wilkerson belted his fourth home run of the season in Monday's 4-2 win over Stony Brook. The circuit-clout was the 33rd of Wilkerson's career and it moved him out of a tie for fourth-place on UCSB's all-time list and into fourth by himself. He needs one more home run to move into a tie for third-place (Jared Janke) and he needs four more to tie for second all-time (Jeff Antoon). In addition to his home run exploits, Wilkerson lead the Gauchos with 24 RBI, a figure that gives him 159 in his career, ninth on the all-time list. He needs eight more to move into sixth-place all alone. Wilkerson enters the three-game series against Oral Roberts having hit in his last four games (7-of-15, .467). he also has two home runs in his last three games, and three of his four home runs have come in the last six games. Finally, Wilkerson has had at least one RBI in each of the last four games, and two or more in seven times this season.

Although he is doing so fully clothed, third baseman David Figoni is streaking in a big way. A senior from Redwood City, Calif., Figoni enters the three-game series against Oral Roberts with a 17-game hitting streak, the longest by any UCSB player since 2001 when Ryan Spilborghs hit in 35 straight games. During the streak, Figoni has gone 27-of-68, 397, with three home runs. Also, he has had two or more hits nine times during the strak, including three times in the last four games. Figoni, who batted .333 (20-of-60) in 29 games a year ago, is second on the team with a .356 batting average, but he is first among players who have played in all of the team's games. Finally, in addition to pacing UCSB in hits and batting average among regulars, Figoni is tied for the team-lead with 20 runs scored, he is third in RBI (15), and second in home runs (3).

Coming To The Gauchos' Aid
Freshman Matt Aidem has earned his niche as the Gauchos' designated hitter. Listed as a catcher on the roster, Aidem worked his way into the lineup as the DH early in the year, and he has become a fixture. Although he has played in just 16 games, starting 14, he leads the team in batting average at .449. Aidem has started the last 13 games, after playing in just three of the first nine. On March 11, in a win over Loyola Marymount, he had a perfect 5-for-5 showing, driving in six runs in the process. Aidem has hit in each of the last four games, going 10-of-16, .625, over that span. Finally, the Valencia, Calif., native has walked nine times and been hit by a pair of pitches, giving him a sterling on-base percentage of .541, 98 points higher than the next closest player.

Improvising Up The Middle
The season-ending knee injury suffered by sophomore shortstop Chris Valaika has forced head coach Bob Brontsema to improvise on the middle infield. The injury to Valaika has forced second baseman Chris Malec, an All-Big West choice in 2004, to shift over to shortstop where he has started the last four games. Malec, one of the Gauchos' offensive leaders, has made the move smoothly, committing just one error in 28 chances since the move. The second thing that happened as a result of Valaika's injury, is that the door was opened for freshman Alden Carrithers at second base. While Carrithers is hitting .333 on the season (6-for-18), he has gone 6-of-16, .375, since entering the lineup as a replacement on March 9 at Cal Poly. Carrithers has also been perfect with the glove recording no errors in 19 chances, 16 of which have come in the last five games.

Big West Action Looms
Following the weekend series against Oral Roberts, UCSB will play a non-conference rainout makeup game at Cal Poly on Monday, March 28, and then Big West games will commence. The Gauchos open Big West play on Friday, April 1, with a 1:00 p.m. game against visiting Pacific. The Tigers and Gauchos will play a three-game series to start league.