Gauchos Face Cal Poly in Big West Opening Weekend

Emily Brucelas (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge)
Emily Brucelas (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge)

For the entire Week 9 Release, please click here.

• The Schedule
UC Santa Barbara (18-14) at Cal Poly (24-8)
Gm. 1 - Saturday, Apr. 1, 2017 at 1 p.m.
Gm. 2 - Saturday, Apr. 1, 2017 at 3:30 p.m.
Gm. 3 - Sunday, Apr. 2, 2017 at 1 p.m.
At Bob Janssen Field
All-time record vs. Mustangs: 54-52
Last time: W, 3-0 (4/3/16)
Live Stats - Gm. 1 - Gm. 2 - Gm. 3

UC Santa Barbara (18-14) at Loyola Marymount (13-21)
Gm. 1 - Monday, Apr. 3, 2017 at 1 p.m.
Gm. 2 - Monday, Apr. 3, 2017 at 3:30 p.m.
At Smith Field
All-time record vs. Lions: 20-17
Last time: L, 9-5 (3/16/17)
Live Stats - Gm. 1 - Gm. 2

• Last Week Recap

UCSB went 6-1 in its final week of pre-conference play, including going a perfect 5-0 at home. The Gauchos earned a 6-5 win over Seattle and two wins over both San Diego (6-1 and 4-3) and Santa Clara (2-1 and 9-8) over the weekend while hosting the second and final Gaucho Classic of the season. They then took the road, where they picked up their first shutout of the season, 4-0, at Sacramento State, before falling at Cal, 5-1.

• Blue-Green Preview

The Gauchos are set to open up conference play against Cal Poly, the team that currently has the best record in the Big West at 24-8. Just last week, the Mustangs earned a No. 25 national ranking, marking the first time they've cracked the top 25 in eight years. Cal Poly is led by pitcher Sierra Hyland, who is in the midst of a record-breaking season. The senior sits fourth in the Big West with 24 RBIs, while her league-leading 0.99 ERA ranks 17th nationally. Furthermore, her 169 strikeouts through 32 games is tied for the fifth-highest mark in the nation. As a team, the Mustangs' defense ranks first in the conference in ERA (1.34), home runs (8), strikeouts (261), walks (47), runs (56), and hits (126). On the offensive end, Cal Poly sits in the bottom half of the Big West, ranking fifth in boths runs per game (4) and batting average (.283). This will be the second consecutive year that the Gauchos open up conference against Cal Poly. UCSB swept 2016's opening series at home, outscoring the Mustangs 8-1 over three games. Santa Barbara has also won five of its last six series with Cal Poly, with the only loss during that stretch coming in 2015.

• LMU Preview

Immediately following the series with Cal Poly, UCSB will head back south for two games at LMU on Monday afternoon. These will be the Gauchos' penultimate non-conference games of the season, with the final one to come against Fresno State on Apr. 19. Santa Barbara has already faced the Lions once this year, falling 9-5 at the Loyola Marymount Tournament back on Mar. 16. The nine runs allowed are the most that UCSB has conceded in its last 20 outings. LMU used two home runs to go on an 8-0 spurt in the bottom of the first to take early control of that game, before the Gauchos ended things on a 5-1 run. The Lions enter Monday's matchup losers of two straight and in five of their last six.

• Crunch Time

UCSB has continued to thrive in close games for much of the season, taking four of its last six wins by a single run. Furthermore, 15 of the Gauchos' last 27 outings have been decided by two runs or less. Their ability to make plays down the stretch have given them a 13-3 record in two-run games.  Out of the Gauchos' 18 wins, eight of them have come in games where UCSB was trailing or tied in the sixth inning or later. On three different occasions, they put up four runs in the seventh to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. They are also a perfect 5-0 when it goes to extra innings.

• Stringing the Hits

For the second straight season, UCSB leads the Big West in hits, coming in with top marks of 7.67 hits per game and 253 total. The Gauchos have reached double-digit hits eight times this year, including a run of three straight games from Mar. 11-13 that concluded with a season-high 15 against UNCO (Mar. 13). It was the most they had in their previous 52 outings dating back to last season. Pacing UCSB in hits so far this year are Jessica Johnston (39), Kristen Clark (35) and Sierra Altmeyer (34).

• Sierra Does It All

Sophomore second baseman Sierra Altmeyer has continued to impress in her sophomore season, currently sitting first in the Big West in runs (29) and home runs (7), second in total bases (64) and slugging percentage (.674), and third in walks (16). Each of those marks also leads UCSB. Additionally, she ranks second on the team in RBIs (18) and batting average (.358) and third in hits (34).

• Freshman Magic

First baseman Alyssa Diaz has been a top contributor for UCSB in her freshman year, putting up team-highs of 22 RBIs and 179 putouts in 31 outings. Over her last five appearances, she led the Gauchos with nine RBIs on the way to five straight wins at the Gaucho Classic II. She finished with three RBIs in two different games last weekend (Mar. 25 vs. San Diego, Mar. 26 vs. Santa Clara), tying a season-high. Diaz also has 11 doubles to her name, ranking second in the conference behind teammate Jessica Johnston. In games where she records a hit, UCSB is 13-7, compared to 4-7 when she is held without a hit.

• Johnston Fills It Up

Following up what was a stellar sophomore campaign, Jessica Johnston has stepped up her game in 2017. Through 33 games, the junior outfielder is leading the Gauchos with 39 hits while ranking second in total bases (62), runs (23), home runs (3),  and slugging percentage (.596). Johnston's team-leading 12 doubles and .375 batting average also rank first and fourth in the Big West, respectively. 

• Gauchos in the Ranks

Aside from hits, the Gauchos are among the conference's best in a number of offensive categories. Their 52 doubles are 15 more than any other team in the Big West. UCSB also ranks third in runs (141), slugging percentage (.410), home runs (15), and RBI (122).