Gauchos Play Three at No. 20 Cal State Fullerton Before Coming Home

Gauchos Play Three at No. 20 Cal State Fullerton Before Coming Home

May 2, 2007

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The Schedule
Games No. 41-43
Friday, May 4 - 7:00 p.m. (PDT)
Saturday, May 5 - 7:00 p.m. (PDT)
Sunday, May 6 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Fullerton
at Cal State Fullerton's Goodwin Field

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara enters the weekend with an overall record of 19-21 and a Big West mark of 7-5. The Gauchos won two out of three games at Cal State Northridge over the weekend and pulled into a tie with Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine for fourth place in the Big West. The trio of teams in fourth are 1.5 games back of first place Long Beach State and UC Riverside, which are each 7-2. Cal Poly is 8-4, one game ahead of the fourth-place pack.

UCSB Plays Three More Before Coming Home
With its three games at Cal State Fullerton this weekend, the Gauchos will complete a stretch of six consecutive road games. Following the series against the Titans, UCSB will return home for three games against nationally-ranked Long Beach State.

This Weekend
The Gauchos will play a three-game series at Cal State Fullerton this weekend. The Titans enter the week with an overall record of 27-15 and a Big West mark of 7-5. Despite being swept in a three-game series at UC Riverside last weekend, Fullerton remains ranked in two of the three national polls as it checks in at No. 20 in both the USA Today/ESPN poll and in the Collegiate Baseball poll. The preseason favorite to win the Big West Conference, the Titans are currently tied for fourth in the league, along with UCSB and UC Irvine. Head coach George Horton's team is led offensively by center fielder Clark Hardman, who has a team-high batting average of .352 and team-high totals of 38 runs, 33 RBI, 64 hits and three triples. Left fielder Nick Mahin is batting .314 with a team-leading five home runs. On the mound, right hander Wes Roemer was named the 2006 NCAA Co-Player of the Year when he went 13-2 with a 2.38 ERA. This year, Roemer is 6-5 with a 3.19 ERA. Junior righty Jeff Kaplan, a transfer from Irvine Valley College, leads Fullerton in wins with seven and he has a solid 3.26 ERA. The Titans have an outstanding 3.63 overall ERA.

The Recent Past
UCSB won two of three games at Cal State Northridge last weekend. Led by left fielder Mike Zuanich, who went 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBI, the Gauchos logged a 13-7 win in Friday's game. Left handed pitcher Chuck Huggins picked up the win and improved to a team-best 6-1 on the season. Shortstop Shane Carlson also had three hits for Santa Barbara, which collected 15 as a team. In Saturday's game, the Matadors scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the second coming with two outs, to overcome a 5-4 Gaucho lead and win 6-5. UCSB was limited to eight hits on the day, two by leadoff hitter Chris Fox. Freshman pitcher Mike Ford did not receive a decision, but did hurl 6.2 decent innings, allowing four earned runs and striking out nine. In Sunday's final game, first baseman Robbie Blauer had three hits to lead a 12-hit attack, as UCSB won 5-4. The Gauchos also received a pair of hits from Zuanich and third baseman Patrick Rose in the win and freshman second baseman Matt Valaika homered, his third of the season. Senior lefty Jeff Braun had his third straight outing to win his second game of the season. Braun went 7.1 innings and allowed just seven hits and four earned runs while striking out seven. Senior Steve Morlock, in his second game back after nursing an injury, collected the save. It was his first of the season and first since he had nine during his freshman season in 2003. The 10 saves moves Morlock into a tie for sixth on the school's all-time list.

The Rotation
This weekend, UCSB will stick with the same rotation that it has gone with each of the last two weekends. Junior left hander Chuck Huggins will make the start on Friday night. Huggins was the winner in the Gauchos' 13-7 Friday win over Cal State Northridge and he improved to a team-best 6-1 on the season with a 4.44 ERA. Freshman Mike Ford, who is 2-1 with a 5.66 ERA, had a no-decision in game two against the Matadors. He did, however, have nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings and will pitch Saturday. Jeff Braun, Sunday's starter, improved to 2-6 with a 6.14 ERA with a win in Sunday's final game against CSUN. He is coming off of three consecutive solid outings.

Rank And File
UCSB has played 16 of its 40 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 tilts 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, plus 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 11-8 in games decided by one or two runs. They are 8-5 in one-run games. Of the 12 Big West Conference games played thus far, seven have been decided by one run and Santa Barbara is 4-3 in those games.

Quick Starters
UCSB has been outstanding in the first inning of games this season. The Gauchos have outscored their opposition by a 37-14 count in the first inning of games. The team's worst inning is the sixth, when it has been out-scored 45-22.

We Like Mike
Junior left fielder Mike Zuanich enters the week ranked fourth among regulars with a .317 batting average. Just as importantly, he has become a consistent presence in the clean-up spot, providing some protection for Robbie Blauer. In Friday's win at Cal State Northridge, Zuanich tied his season-high with three hits and he had a season-high five RBI. He now has 30 RBI on the season, second only to Blauer. Zuanich has a hit in five of his last six games and in that time, he has gone 10-for-22 (.455) with eight RBI, three doubles and a home run. His production has also become a pretty good barometer of Gaucho success. Zuanich has produced at least one RBI in 19 games this season and UCSB has posted a 14-5 record in those games. When he has two or more RBI, the team has gone 5-1 with the only exception being a March 6 loss to Pepperdine when he had three RBI.

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 a couple of weeks ago, Rose has cemented himself at the hot corner. 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 20-for-50 (.400) to elevate his average to .287. In fact, after going 3-for-5 in game two at UCR, Rose produced another 0-for-5, but since then he has hit in nine of 10, going 17-for-36 (.472), over that period. In his last 10 games, his on-base percentage is a lofty .535. Not only has he gone up a level offensively, Rose has also been solid defensively.

The Life Of Braun
After a five-appearance stretch in which he allowed 19 earned runs and 36 hits in 17.0 innings, senior lefty Jeff Braun was moved to the bullpen. On April 7 in a relief appearance at UC Riverside, he went 1.1 innings to help UCSB hold a lead. The following week, Braun was back in starting rotation and in his three starts since, he has been solid, going 2-1 with a 4.22 ERA. Including his 1.1 inning appearance at UCR, he has a 3.96 ERA in his last four games, allowing just 21 hits while striking out 18 in 22.2 innings.

Potential Starters - Notes
C/DH - Matt Anderson - Has just three hits in his last 22 at bats (.136).
C - Chris McMurray - Has thrown out 25 of 56 would-be base stealers.
1B - Robbie Blauer - Has collected hits in 37 of 40 games.
2B - Matt Valaika - Went 3-for-10 with a home run and four RBI at Cal State Northridge.
3B - Patrick Rose - Has eight multiple-hit games in the last 12, going 20-of-50 (.400).
SS - Shane Carlson - Has two three-hit games this season, each coming in the last four games.
LF - Mike Zuanich - Has nine hits in 17 at bats in last five games (.529).
CF - Chris Fox - Has a 12-game hitting streak, going 22-for-52 (.423) over that span.
RF - Mario Lewis - Leads the Gauchos in home runs with six.
RF - Brian Gump - Has collected four hits in his last seven at bats (.571).
DH - Cody Dee - Has had 12 hits in 33 at bats over the last nine games (.364).
SP - Chuck Huggins - Left handed hitters are batting just .149 against him.
SP - Mike Ford - Could be the first freshman to lead UCSB in strikeouts since Barry Zito in 1997.
SP - Jeff Braun - Has gone 6.0+ in three straight after having done so just once in first 11 games.
RP - Steve Morlock - In finale at CSUN, he had his first save since 2003.
Cl - Justin Segal - His 14 career saves ties him for third on UCSB's all-time list. Leaders have 16.

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 367-369-2 (.499). 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 as the 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, which saw him earn career win number 200 with a 7-2 victory over UC Riverside. A 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 UCSB 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 Fullerton with 149 coaching victories in Big West Conference play. The 149 wins puts him six ahead of UNLV's Fred Dallimore for fifth on the league's all-time list. Brontsema needs 17 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 eight games, going 11-for-28 (.393) over that span. In addition, in the last eight games Blauer has walked nine times and has an on-base percentage of .541. In three games at Cal State Northridge, he went 5-for-14 and walked once. The previous weekend against UC Irvine, he went 4-for-8 and walked five times. At one point against the Anteaters Blauer reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances. Overall, the senior from Huntington Beach, Calif., is batting .394, second in the Big West Conference. His on-base percentage of .495 leads the league. In addition to batting average and on-base percentage, Blauer also tops the team in hits, RBI, doubles, walks and at bats. The only Gaucho to have started all 40 games, he is second in home runs with four. Blauer has collected at least one hit in 37 of 40 games and he 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 16 times this season and has been on base via hit or walk two or more times on 27 occasions. Taking the subject one step further, he has been on base three or more times 18 times this season. Finally, Blauer continues to make contact, even when he is not collecting a hit. In 187 plate appearances, he has struck out just eight times, once every 23.4 times to the plate. Interestingly, he struck out in each of the first two games against Northridge, the first time he has whiffed in back-to-back games this year.

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 12 straight games and lifted his average to .331. In the last 12, Fox has gone 22-of-52 (.423), with 12 runs scored, 10 RBI, two home runs, two doubles, a triple and four stolen bases. Over that same span, he has walked four times and been hit by a pitch, giving him an on-base percentage of .455. Fox has two or more hits 14 times this season, including seven times during his current 12-game hitting streak. He leads the team with 28 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. In fact, he has stolen 13 of 17 on the year, including 10 of his last 11 attempts.

The Morlock The Better
Senior right hander Steve Morlock returned to the mound in the series at Cal State Northridge. Morlock made a pair of appearances in the three games, his first since March 31 at TCU. For the native of Kentfield, Calif., it must have felt a little like old times as both of his appearances came in relief. The two relief stints were Morlock's first two out of the bullpen since 2003, his freshman season. In Sunday's game he pitched 0.2 innings against the Matadors and recorded his first save in nearly four years. The save on Sunday, combined with the nine he logged in his first season in Santa Barbara, gave him 10 in his career and moved him into a tie for sixth on the school's all-time list. Morlock will remain in the bullpen for the time being.