UCSB Takes to the Road for Three at Cal State Northridge

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The Schedule
Games No. 38-40
Friday, April 27 - 3:00 p.m. (PDT)
Saturday, April 28 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
Sunday, April 29 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Northridge
at CSUN's Matador Field

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara enters the weekend with an overall record of 17-20 and a Big West mark of 5-4. The Gauchos dropped two of three games to nationally-ranked UC Irvine over the weekend and are now in sixth-place in the Big West. On the bright side, UCSB is just two games behind first-place Cal State Fullerton (7-2), 1.5 games behind second-place Cal Poly (8-4) and a half game behind third-place Long Beach State (4-2), UC Riverside (4-2) and UC Irvine (7-5). Overall, the Gauchos have won six of their last nine games.

UCSB Hits Road For Next Six
After playing its last seven games at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium where it has a solid record of 13-11, UCSB will go on the road for its next six contests. Following the upcoming series at Cal State Northridge, the Gauchos will play a trio of games at first-place Cal State Fullerton. In fact, over the last four weeks of the season, UCSB will play 10 of its final 17 games away from home.

This Weekend
The Gauchos return to the road this weekend when they travel to Cal State Northridge for a three-game series against the Matadors. UCSB and CSUN will be playing for the second time this season. The teams met in Santa Barbara for a three-game non-conference series on March 9-11 with the Gauchos winning all three. UCSB won 6-2, 9-8 and 2-1. In the all-time series between the schools, Santa Barbara holds a 59-51 advantage. CSUN was swept by UCLA in a three-game series last weekend and now has a 13-28 overall record and a 1-8 mark in Big West play. The Matadors, who are 6-8 in home games, are led by senior first baseman Jorge Andrade, Jr., who is leads the Big West in batting average at .401. Andrade also paces his team in almost every offensive category. He has six home runs, 13 doubles and 32 RBI. On the mound, CSUN is led by sophomore right hander Jimmy Jolicoeur who is 5-3 with a 4.65 earned run average.

The Recent Past
UCSB went 2-2 last week. After extending their longest winning streak of the season to four games with a 15-9 win over Westmont on Tuesday, the Gauchos lost two out of three Big West games to UC Irvine over the weekend. In the win over Westmont, four different players had three hits, leading UCSB to a season-high 19 as a team. For the Gauchos seven different pitchers saw action in the game and the bullpen combined to pitch perfect ball over the final four innings. In Friday's series opener against the Anteaters, UCSB jumped out to a 4-1 lead on the strength of home runs by first baseman Robbie Blauer and designated hitter Cody Dee, but could not hold on as UCI combined for eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings and then cruised the rest of the way. In the second game of the series the Gauchos parlayed a solid pitching performance by freshman starter Mike Ford and three innings of relief from Justin Segal into a 6-5 win. Ford allowed just two earned runs and five hits over 6.0 innings. He also had six strikeouts. Segal gave up seven hits in his three innings, but only allowed one run to earn his seventh save of the year. Meanwhile, UCSB roughed-up Anteater ace Wes Etheridge to the tune of 11 hits and five earned runs in just 4.1 innings. Left fielder Mike Zuanich was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI on the day. Five other Gauchos, including Blauer, had a pair of hits. Sunday's series final was delayed by an hour and 40 minutes due to rain, but turned out to be a good game. UCI jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the top of the third inning, but UCSB clawed back to within 6-5 after eight. The Anteaters added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, but the Gauchos scored a run and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the frame, losing by a narrow 7-6 margin. While senior left hander Jeff Braun was tagged with the loss, he went 8.0 innings, the last 5.2 of which he did not allow a hit. Sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI and sophomore third baseman Patrick Rose was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI.

The Rotation
This weekend, UCSB will stick with the same rotation that it has gone with each of the last two series. Junior left hander Chuck Huggins will make the start on Friday afternoon. Huggins was the loser in the Gauchos' 10-5 Friday loss to UC Irvine -- his first defeat of the year. He is now 5-1 with a 4.20 ERA. Freshman Mike Ford, who is 2-2 with a 5.69 ERA, picked-up his second win of the season on Saturday against UCI. He will pitch Saturday. Jeff Braun, who dropped to 1-6 with a 6.31 ERA in Sunday's final game against the Anteaters, is coming off of his two best outings of the year.

Potential Starters - Notes
C/DH - Matt Anderson - Has just three hits in his last 19 at bats, 157.
C - Chris McMurray - Has thrown out 25 of 54 would-be base stealers.
1B - Robbie Blauer - Leads the Big West with an on-pase percentage of .506.
2B - Matt Valaika - After initially going 7-for-14 upon his return, he has gone 0-for-10 since.
3B - Patrick Rose - Has gone 12-for-28 with nine runs scored and six RBI in last seven.
SS - Shane Carlson - Had a career-high three hits in Sunday's game against UC Irvine.
LF - Mike Zuanich - Ranks second on the team with an on-base percentage of .424.
CF - Chris Fox - Has a nine-game hitting streak, going 17-for-39, .436, over that span.
RF - Mario Lewis - Did not start in series finale against UC Irvine, a season-first.
RF - Brian Gump - Has collected four hits in his last seven at bats, .571.
DH - Cody Dee - Has had nine hits in 21 at bats over the last six games.

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 365-368-2 (.498). 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 at Cal State Northridge with 147 coaching victories in Big West Conference play. The 147 wins puts him four ahead of UNLV's Fred Dallimore for fifth on the league's all-time list. Brontsema would then need 19 more league wins to catch former Cal State Fullerton head coach Augie Garrido.

Blauer Power
First baseman Robbie Blauer continues to be UCSB's offensive leader. He has collected at least one hit in each of his last five games, going 6-for-14 (.428) over that span. In addition, Blauer has walked eight times and has an on-base percentage of .636 in the last five games. In three games against UC Irvine, he went 4-for-8 and walked five times. At one point, before he made out his first time up on Sunday, Blauer had reached base in his first eight plate appearances against the Anteaters. Overall, the senior from Huntington Beach, Calif., is batting .397, second in the Big West Conference. His on-base percentage of .506 leads the league. In addition to batting average and on-base percentage, Blauer is the only Gaucho to have started all 37 games this season and he tops the team in hits, RBI, doubles, walks and at bats. He is also second in home runs with four. Blauer has collected at least one hit in 34 of 37 games and opened the year by hitting in the first 23 games, giving him a two-season streak of 24 games in a row. He has had two or more hits 15 times this season and has been on base via hit or walk two or more times on 26 occasions. Taking the subject one step further, he has been on base three or more times 17 times this season and before reaching just once in the series finale against UC Irvine, he had done so in seven straight Big West games. Finally, Blauer continues to make contact, even when he is not collecting a hit. In 172 plate appearances, he has struck out just six times, once every 28.7 times to the plate.

Crazy Like A Fox
Junior center fielder Chris Fox is a big part of the reason that the Gauchos have started to emerge over the past few weeks. On April 5, Fox saw his batting average dip to .284 when he went 0-for-3 in a game against UC Riverside. He has since hit in nine straight games and lifted his average to .326. In the last nine, Fox has gone 17-of-39, .436, with 10 runs scored, seven RBI, a triple, a double, a pair of home runs and four stolen bases. Over that same span, he has walked twice and been hit by a pitch, giving him an on-base percentage of .476. Fox has three hits seven times this season, including three times in his last nine games. He has also claimed the team-lead with 28 runs scored. Finally, Fox also paces the Gauchos in stolen bases. He has stolen 13 in 17 attempts, including 10 of his last 11 attempts.

Segal Takes Aim At The Top
Senior relief ace Justin Segal collected saves in each of his last four save opportunities, including Saturday's win over UC Irvine. In the game against the Anteaters, Segal tied his season-high by hurling three innings to claim his seventh save of the year. He now has 14 saves in his career and has moved into a tie with Butch Seuberth (1986-87) in the third spot on UCSB's all-time list. The all-time leaders, Alex McRobbie and John Minton, each had 16. His seven saves also ties him, with himself among others, for sixth on the single-season list.

Ford, A Better Idea
Freshman right hander Mike Ford has had his ups-and-downs this season. On Saturday against UC Irvine, Ford had a definite up. The freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., earned his second win of the year by pitching 6.0 innings and allowing just five hits and two earned runs while striking out six and walking four. He also threw a 1-2-3 inning of relief in last week's win over Westmont. Ford, who had a perfect game for 5.2 innings on April 1 at TCU, will make his second start of the season against Cal State Northridge on Saturday. In his first start against the Matadors, he had his best overall performance of the campaign as he went 8.0 innings and allowed just four hits and one run while striking out five and walking one. It was his Ford's first career win.

Rank And File
UCSB has played 16 of its 37 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 UC Irvine and UC Riverside. Things don't ease-up much in the future either. UCSB still has three game sets with Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Cal Poly, and a pair of games against USC. By season's end, Santa Barbara will have played a minimum of 27 games against ranked opponents.

Close, But Sometimes The Banana
UCSB has been pretty good in close games this year. The Gauchos are 10-7 in games decided by one or two runs. They are 7-4 in one-run games. Of their nine Big West Conference games played thus far, five have been decided by one run and Santa Barbara is 3-2 in those games.

Fast Out Of The Gates
UCSB has been outstanding in the first inning of games this season. The Gauchos have outscored their opposition by a 36-12 count in the first inning of games. The team's worst inning is the sixth when it has been outscored 44-18.

Be Like Mike
Junior left fielder Mike Zuanich enters the week ranked fourth among regulars with a .305 batting average. Just as importantly, he has become a consistent presence in the clean-up spot in the batting order, providing some protection for Robbie Blauer. After hitting in all three games against UC Irvine, including a 3-for-4 performance with the game-deciding two-run single in Saturday's game, Zuanich has now hit in six straight games and has gone 8-for-19, .421, during that span. He also has six RBI during the current streak and now has 25 for the season, second only to Blauer. Finally, Zuanich has collected 20 walks on the year and has upped his on-base percentage to .424 overall. In the three games against UCI, he was on base seven times in 13 plate appearances, a .538 mark.

By Any Other Name
Junior Patrick Rose has emerged from the pack to claim the starting job at third base as his own. Although he made a few starts at second base in the absence of Matt Valaika, Rose has cemented himself at third. Offensively, the native of Laguna Niguel was hitting .190 after going 0-for-5 in the Big West-opener at UC Riverside on April 5, but since then he has gone 15-for-38, .394, to elevate his average to .271. In fact after going 3-for-5 in game two at UCR, Rose produced another 0-for-5 outing, but since then he has hit in six of seven, going 12-for-24, .500, over that period. In his last seven games, his on-base percentage is a lofty .571. Not only has Rose stepped it up a level offensively, he has also been solid defensively. He has committed just five errors this season and none in 30 opportunities during Big West play.

Braun Is On
Senior southpaw Jeff Braun has made two solid starts since returning to the starting rotation. On April 15 against Pacific, Braun picked-up his first win of the season by going 6.0 innings and allowing just one rurn against the Tigers. Against UC Irvine on Sunday, he was tagged with the loss, but really only had one bad inning. After allowing one run in the second, Braun gave up five runs, four earned, in the third. He closed-out the game by hurling 5.2 no-hit innings against the nationally-ranked Anteaters. In his last three appearances, Braun has gone 15.1 innings, allowing 14 hits, six earned runs and striking out 11 with five walks. His ERA over that span is a solid 3.53.