UCSB Looks to End Five-Game Losing Streak as it Opens Big West Play at UC Riverside Beginning Thursday

April 4, 2007

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The Schedule
Games No. 28, 29 and 30
Thursday, April 5 - 7:00 p.m. (PDT)
UCSB at UC Riverside
at the Riverside Sports Complex

Friday, April 6 - 3:00 p.m. (PDT)
UCSB at UC Riverside
at the Riverside Sports Complex

Saturday, April 7 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
UCSB at UC Riverside
at the Riverside Sports Complex

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara opens Big West Conference play against UC Riverside this week with an 11-16 overall record. The Gauchos dropped a home contest with Cal last Wednesday before getting swept by No. 26 Texas Christian over the weekend. Despite losing two of three to 12th-ranked Pepperdine Mar. 24-26, UCSB had won 7 of 11 overall entering competition last week. After posting an 0-4 mark against the Golden Bears and Horned Frogs, Santa Barbara has now lost a season-high five straight to fall five games below the .500 mark.

This Week
For the second year in a row, UCSB will kick off conference play against UC Riverside with a three-game series Thursday-Saturday at the Riverside Sports Complex. Last season the Gauchos belted 15 hits on the way to an 8-6 victory at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium in the series opener April 7, only to fall 13-4 and 8-1 in games two and three. UCR racked up a total of 27 hits in the final two games to claim the series win and holds a 14-10 mark against UCSB all-time. Riverside enters league play with an 18-11 overall record and has won seven of its last nine contests. Led by junior right-hander James Simmons' 2.06 earned run average and 54 strikeouts, the Higlanders pace the Big West with a 3.48 ERA and 248 Ks. UCR is 13-5 at home in 2007.

The Week That Was
Last week was one that the UCSB coaching staff would definitely like to forget as the Gauchos lost all four games, culminating in their longest losing streak in two years. Santa Barbara dropped its third game of the year to Cal, falling 9-7 Wednesday as Bryan Fleming lost his second decision of the season. A three-run seventh inning broke a 6-6 tie and proved to be the difference for the Golden Bears. After Friday's series opener at No. 26 TCU was cancelled due to rain, the Horned Frogs posted 12-3 and 8-5 victories in a double-header Saturday. Robbie Blauer drove in a run in the first to give UCSB a 1-0 lead, but TCU answered with a run in their half of the inning and then three more in the third before blowing it open with six in the fifth. Steve Morlock took the loss after allowing six runs on eight hits in five innings of work. Santa Barbara struck first in the opening inning in game two as well and held a 5-3 advantage after five, but once again, the Gaucho pitchers could not avoid the big inning. After starter Chuck Huggins allowed a solo homer in the sixth, Justin Segal gave up four runs in the eighth and the Horned Frogs claimed the victory. UCSB led 3-0 in the finale, but TCU scored all eight of its runs in the seventh and eighth innings to erase the deficit and complete the series sweep. Anderson went 1-for-4 with two RBI for the Gauchos in the loss.

The Rotation
Senior Brian Tracy will get the nod in the series opener against UC Riverside this Thursday. Tracy had been one of the Gauchos' hottest pitchers entering compettiton a week ago, but got roughed up by Cal, walking five and allowing three runs in two innings of work. The 6-4 right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.54 ERA in nine appearances this season, with his last decision coming after he allowed just one earned run in a win over LMU Mar. 18. Junior Chuck Huggins will pitch game two against the Highlanders looking to pick up his fourth win of the year. The transfer from Trinity College is a perfect 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA despite allowing four runs on eight hits in the game two loss to TCU last week. Finally Mike Ford will take the mound for the Gauchos in the series finale. The freshman allowed three runs, one of which was earned, on five hits in seven innings Sunday in Fort Worth. Ford brings a 1-1 record and a 4.40 ERA into this weekend's assignment.

Potential Starters - Notes
C - Matt Anderson-Has hit in 14 of his last 16 games.
C - Chris McMurray-Went 2-for-5 with two RBI last Wednesday against Cal.
1B - Robbie Blauer-Second in the Big West hitting .402 in 2007.
2B - Patrick Rose-Has started the last five games at second base.
3B - Gunnar Terhune-Second among UCSB's freshmen hitting .243 this season.
SS - Shane Carlson-Went 6-for-14 (.429) with a run scored and three RBI last week.
LF - Mike Zuanich-Leads team with two homers and 19 runs, second with 18 RBI.
CF - Chris Fox-Went 3-for-4 with two runs in first of three straight games in leadoff spot.
RF - Mario Lewis-Was just 2-for-9 last week after going 17 for his previous 52, .327.
DH - Cody Dee-Second on the squad hitting .317 this season.
DH - Steve Domecus-Two of his five hits have been home runs.

The Bob Brontsema File
2007 marks the 26th year of head coach Bob Brontsema's involvement in the UCSB baseball program. He is now in his 14th season as head coach, after ten years as an assistant and two as a player. Brontsema's career record is 359-364-2 (.495). He has been selected Big West Coach of the Year twice, in 1996 when he guided the Gauchos to a 32-20 record and an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament, and in 2001, when he led the team to a 40-17 mark and another NCAA Tournament berth. The .702 winning percentage in 2001 ranks third highest in school history. In 2004, Brontsema's Gauchos posted the second most overall wins in his career as head coach, going 33-21. Milestone dates in his coaching career include April 27, 1997, marking his 100th career win with a 16-4 victory over the University of Pacific and April 7, 2001, that saw him earn career win number 200 with a 7-2 victory over UC Riverside. The 6-1 victory over San Jose State on Feb. 13, 2005 marked yet another milestone for Brontsema, career win number 300. Victory number 344, which pushed him past Dave Gorrie and into the No. 2 spot in career wins, came May 12, 2006 in an 8-6 win over Long Beach State.

Blauer Power
Senior first baseman Robbie Blauer has been one of UCSB's most consistent performers all season. Although his 24-game hitting streak did come to a halt with an 0-for-5 performance in the loss to the Golden Bears last week, he bounced right back against TCU. The Huntington Beach native hit .417 (5-for-12) in the series with a run and three RBI, including plating two of the Gauchos' three runs in the opener Saturday. Blauer, who has hit in 26 of 27 games this season, enters the week with a team-leading .402 batting average. Despite the fact that his average fell from .421 last week, he still ranks second in the Big West in that category. Blauer leads or is tied for the team-lead in nine offensive categories, including at-bats (112), hits (45), doubles (8), and RBI (23). Even more impressively, he has only struck out a total of five times in 2007 -- the third fewest on the squad. Of the 17 Gauchos listed with offensive statistics, Blauer ranks 13th with just four strikeouts. Of the 14 players with 20 or more at bats, he ranks 14th. Finally, in his two seasons combined, Blauer has collected 106 hits in 291 at bats, a .364 average, a figure that would rank fifth on the school's all-time list.

Welcome, Matt
While Robbie Blauer's impressive hit streak that extended back to the final game of last season was snapped, senior catcher/designated hitter Matt Anderson has started another streak of his own. Starting with the 11-3 loss to Pepperdine in the series finale two weeks ago, the Cameron Park, Calif. native has hit in five straight games, the longest current streak on the team. While Anderson's five-game hitting streak is rather modest, it comes on the heels of nine-game streak from Mar. 2-17, which included a 4-for-5 performance with two runs and two RBI Mar. 3 against St. John's. He has now hit in 15 of the 21 games he has played in and is third on the squad with a .308 batting average. After driving in two and scoring twice last week against Cal, Anderson has now scored nine runs, with five doubles, and nine runs batted in this season.

Ford, A Better Idea
Freshman right hander Mike Ford had one of the best pitching performances by a Gaucho this season in the Sunday's series finale at TCU. While his final line said that he went 7.0 innings and allowed five hits, three runs, one earned, with no walks and one strikeout, that doesn't tell half the story. Ford started the game by pitching 5.2 innings of perfect, not just no-hit, but PERFECT, baseball. It was the longest no-hit stretch by a UCSB pitcher in some time. In fact, the last no hitter tossed by a Gaucho was on March 29, 1980, when Mike Nowlin pitched a seven innng no-hitter against UC Irvine. Through six innings on Sunday, Ford, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., had pitched a one-hit shutout. The effort against the Horned Frogs lowered his earned run average to 4.40 and he seems to have cemented himself into UCSB's regular three-man pitching rotation. Ford has now made five starts and, with the exception of a March 26 appearance at Pepperdine, he has been, at worst, solid. He is 1-1 on the year and his win came in a career-high eight inning stint on March 11 against Cal State Northridge in which he went eight innings and allowed just one run on four hits. In his 30.2 innings of work, Ford has recorded more strikeouts (29) than hits (27) and while he has had control problems at times this season, his seven innings without a walk at TCU was definitely a good sign.

The Kids Are Alright
Through 27 games, UCSB has gotten solid contributions from its freshmen and sophomores. The Gauchos' everyday lineup regularly includes three freshmen and sophomores and, quite often, four or five. Leading the way among the youngsters are the three regulars. Sophomore catcher Chris McMurray has been a solid offensive threat all season. He enters Big West play with a .296 batting average. He has also been a rock behind the plate, throwing out 19 of a possible 40 would-be base stealers. Freshman Matt Valaika, sidelined the last four games with an arm injury, is hitting .217 and he has seven doubles and two home runs. Valaika's injury has forced the Gauchos to move junior Patrick Rose from third to second and that has opened the door for freshman Gunnar Terhune and sophomore Robby Cummings at the hot corner. Terhune has played in 19 games this season, starting nine, and he is second among freshmen with a .243 batting average. Cummings has yet to heat things up offensively and is hitting .063. Since opening the year by going 0-for-14, sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson has started to get things going offensively. He is batting nearly .275 over the last 23 games. Carlson is one of three UCSB players to have started all 27 games this season. Freshman Cody Dee, listed as a catcher, has played in 17 games this season, including 13 starts, and he is batting .317 with a home run and 10 runs batted in.

Be Like Mike
Junior left fielder Mike Zuanich continued to get on base and score last week in the single game against Cal and the three-game seried with TCU. He scored a run in all four contests -- including three in the loss to the Golden Bears -- and now leads the team with 19 runs this season. He also had a hit in three of the four games and finished the week 3-for-12 with four walks. The Torrance, Calif. native is fourth on the team hitting .296, tied for second with 29 hits, and second with 18 RBI. His two home runs in 2007 are tied with three other Gauchos for the team lead. Zuanich has hit in 21 of 27 games this year.

Shane On You
Sophomore Shane Carlson has been very reliable for Santa Barbara at shortstop this season. One of only three Gauchos to start all 27 games in 2007, he enters Big West play batting .229 with 19 hits, 12 runs scored, and eight runs batted in. The native of Stevenson Ranch, Calif. had three multiple hit games last week and went 6-for-14 (.429) against Cal and TCU overall. Carlson had only two multiple hit games before last week and now has a total of five this season.