UCSB Returns Home for Next Seven, Hosts Pacific This Weekend

UCSB Returns Home for Next Seven, Hosts Pacific This Weekend

April 10, 2007

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The Schedule
Games No. 31, 32 and 33
Friday, April 13 - 2:00 p.m. (PDT)
UCSB vs. the University of the Pacific
at UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium

Saturday, April 14 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
UCSB vs. the University of the Pacific
at UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium

Saturday, April 15 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
UCSB vs. the University of the Pacific
at UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara will open its first Big West home series of the season with an overall record of 12-18 and a league mark of 1-2. The Gauchos have dropped seven of their last eight games, but they did end a six-game losing streak on Friday with a 5-4 win at UC Riverside. While UCSB dropped two of three games to the Highlanders, the final two games of the series were tough one-run decisions with the Gauchos winning game two, 5-4, and losing the final game, 9-8.

Gauchos Hope To Get Healthy At Home
After playing eight of their last nine games on the road, UCSB returns home this weekend hoping to get back on-track. Beginning with Friday's 2:00 p.m. game against Pacific, Santa Barbara will play seven consecutive home games over a 10 day period. In addition to hosting the Tigers, the Gauchos will host Westmont on April 17 in a non-conference game and then UC Irvine for a three-game series beginning April 20.

This Week
This weekend, UCSB will play its first Big West home series of the season. The University of the Pacific enters the week with an overall record of 8-25-1 and a Big West mark of 0-3. The Tigers lost two of three games to UC Davis this past weekend. Overall, they have dropped two in a row and eight of their last nine games. Pacific opened league play two weekends ago and dropped a trio of games to visiting Cal Poly. In 2006, the visiting Gauchos lost two of three games to the Tigers. UCSB, however, holds a 61-30 all-time lead in the series. Pacific is led by junior third baseman Justin Baum who paces the team in batting average (.394), home runs (7) and RBI (25). Sophomore catcher Joe Oliveira, like Baum has played in all 34 games this season and is hitting .312.

The Week That Was
UCSB dropped two out of three games at UC Riverside in the first Big West series of the season for both teams. In the series opener, the Gauchos fell victim to Highlander right hander James Simmons who tossed eight innings of two-hit ball and combined with reliever D.J. Smith for a 9-0, two-hit shutout. In game two on Friday, UCSB rebounded with a come-from-behind 5-4 victory. Junior lefty Chuck Huggins carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, tired and allowed four runs in the seventh and ultimately was the beneficiary, as his team scored three runs in the top of the eighth to rally for the win. Senior reliever Justin Segal closed out the game with two scoreless innings to post his fourth save of the season. In the final game of the series on Saturday, Santa Barbara dropped a heartbreaking 9-8 decision. The Gauchos scored six runs in the first two innings to take a 6-0 lead. The big blow was a grand slam home run by right fielder Mario Lewis. After Riverside battled back, scoring seven runs from the second through sixth innings, UCSB scored a pair in the top of the eighth to reclaim an 8-7 advantage. The Highlanders, however, scored two unearned runs after two were out in the bottom of the ninth to wrest the game back from the Gauchos, 9-8.

The Rotation
With senior Steve Morlock continuing to nurse a sore arm, junior Chuck Huggins will get the nod in the series opener against Pacific on Friday. Huggins enters the week with a perfect 4-0 record and a team-leading 3.37 ERA. He went 7.0 innings in his last outing, a 5-4 win at UC Riverside, and in that game, he had a no-hitter through five innings. In game two of the set, UCSB will go with freshman Mike Ford. Ford is 1-1 with a 5.45 ERA, but he has had some outstanding efforts this season, including an April 1 loss at nationally-ranked TCU when he had a perfect game for 5.2 innings. Senior Jeff Braun will return to the rotation in game three against the Tigers. He is 0-5 with a 7.23 ERA. It will be Braun's seventh start of the season, but he has pitched out of he bullpen for the last several weeks.

Potential Starters - Notes
C/DH - Matt Anderson - Has hit in 15 of his last 19 games.
C - Chris McMurray - Was on base five times in last eight plate appearances at UCR.
1B - Robbie Blauer - Has 13 mutiple-hit games this season.
2B - Patrick Rose - Had a career-high three hits in Saturday's win at UCR.
3B - Gunnar Terhune - Expected back from hip injury this weekend.
SS - Shane Carlson - One of three players to have started all 30 games.
LF - Mike Zuanich - Has taken over the team lead with 21 runs scored.
CF - Chris Fox - Leads the team with nine stolen bases in 12 attempts.
RF - Mario Lewis - Hit a grand slam home run in the series finale at UCR.
DH - Cody Dee - Has just one hit in his last 11 at bats, .091.
DH - Steve Domecus - Had just one plate appearance in three games at UCR.

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 360-366-2 (.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.

Brontsema Moves Up
Head coach Bob Brontsema enters the series against Pacific with 143 coaching victories in Big West Conference play. The 143 wins ties him with UNLV's Fred Dallimore for fifth on the league's all-time list. With one more win, Brontsema will move into fifth by himself. He would then need 23 more league wins to catch former Cal State Fullerton head coach Augie Garrido.

Blauer Power
Last week, we wrote that senior first baseman Robbie Blauer has been one of UCSB's most consistent performers all season. Let's scratch the one from the equation. He has been by far the most consistent Gaucho. Blauer enters the series against Pacific as the team-leader in batting average (.397), hits (48), doubles (nine), home runs (two), RBI (24), slugging percentage (.537), on base percentage (.475) and walks (17). He opened the year by hitting in the first 23 games, extending a two-season hitting streak to 24 in a row. Blauer has now hit in 28 of 30 games this season and has had more than one hit 13 times. Even more impressively, he has only struck out a total of five times in 2007 -- the fewest on the squad among players who have at least 20 plate appearances. Blauer leads the team with 139 plate appearances and is striking out once every 27.8 plate appearances. Finally, in his two seasons combined, Blauer has collected 109 hits in 305 at bats, a .357 average, a figure that would tie him for ninth on the school's all-time list.

Huggins Joins The Near-No-Hitter Club
Junior southpaw Chuck Huggins, scheduled to start the series opener against Pacific, pitched another solid game for the Gauchos in his outing at UC Riverside last weekend. Huggins got credit for the win after going 7.0 innings and allowing five hits and four runs while striking out five. He also had his best start in terms of control as he walked just two. Even more impressively, Huggins became the second UCSB pitcher in a week to carry a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He was lights out until Highlander center fielder Carl Uhl had a bunt single to start the bottom of the sixth. Huggins, who is now a perfect 4-0 on the season with a team-leading 3.37 ERA, has struck out 31 batters and allowed just 22 hits in 34.2 innings in 2007. While he has walked 27 batters, he has issued just 10 free passes in his last 19 innings, not great but getting better.

Ford, A Better Idea
Freshman right hander Mike Ford, slated to start the second game of this weekend's series, was the first Gaucho to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning. On April 1, Ford tossed 5.2 inning of perfect ball in a game at TCU. While UCSB ultimately lost the game to the Horned Frogs, the first-year native of Scottsdale, Ariz., went 7.0 innings and allowed just five hits and three runs, one earned. In his last outing, Ford gave up 10 hits and seven runs in 5.2 innings against UC Riverside. He is now 1-1 on the year with a slightly misleading 5.45 ERA. Ford has allowed 14 of his 22 earned runs, in two starts, a total of 10.0 innings. In his other seven appearances, a total of 26.1 innings, he has allowed eight earned runs and posted a 2.73 ERA. Finally, while he has walked 18 this season, Ford has pitched 12.2 innings in his last two games and not walked a batter.

Rank And File
Including the three games at UC Riverside, UCSB has played 13 of its 30 games this season against teams that either are or have been ranked at one point. The Gauchos played four games against Pepperdine, three against Hawaii and three at TCU in addition to their league games against Riverside. Things don't ease-up much in the future either. UCSB still has three game sets with Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Long Beach State, and a pair of games against USC. By season's end, Santa Barbara will have played a minimum of 24 games against nationally ranked opponents.

Injuries Take Their Toll
Injuries have really started to take a toll on the Gauchos this season. Senior pitching ace Steve Morlock, who missed his start last weekend with an arm injury, is not expected back anytime soon. He could remain sidelined for at least four more weeks. Another senior right hander who was expected to be in the rotation, Michael Martin, made just two appearances before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. He missed all of last season as well. Freshman second baseman Matt Valaika, who started 22 of the first 23 games, has been sidelined the last couple of weeks with a collarbone injury and he will not return this weekend. Freshman infielder Gunnar Terhune, a starter in nine games this season, has been sidelined with a hip injury but could return this weekend. Finally, senior catcher Matt McColgan has been out all year with a knee injury.

Stop! Thief!
UCSB catchers have thrown out an impressive 29 of 58 would-be base stealers. For you non-mathematicians in the audience, that's exactly half. Regular starter Chris McMurray, a sophomore who was named Honorable Mention All-Big West as a freshman in 2006, has been a big part of things. He has thrown out 22 of 41 base stealers.

The Other Side Of The Coin
On the other side of the coin, although UCSB doesn't run much, they have had some success. Led by center fielder Chris Fox who has stolen nine bases in 12 tries, the Gauchos have stolen 26 out of 36, a solid 72.2%. Chris McMurray, he of the cannon-arm, is also having a good year doing some running of his own. McMurray has gone five-for-five in stolen base opportunities.

Segal Should Take The Fifth
In UCSB's only win at UC Riverside over the weekend, senior closer Justin Segal picked-up his fourth save of the season. In his two seasons as the closer, Segal has now saved 11 games moving him into a tie with Chris Quiroz for fifth on the all-time list. If he can collect one more this year, he would move into a tie for fourth. The all-time leaders, Alex McRobbie and John Minton, each had 16.