No. 20 UCSB Baseball Welcomes Wichita State to Caesar Uyesaka For Three-Game Set

Peter Maris (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Peter Maris (Photo by Vince Agapito)

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• The Schedule
Friday, Mar. 14 at 3:00 p.m. vs. Wichita State (10-4)
Saturday, Mar. 15 at 2:00 p.m. vs. Wichita State
Saturday, Mar. 16 at 1:00 p.m. vs. Wichita State

All-Time Record vs. Wichita State: 1-6
Last meeting: WSU and UCSB split two games at Hawai'i
Tourney 3/26-30/2001 in Honolulu, Hawai'i

• Breaking Into the Rankings
After a 3-1 showing at the Hi Corbett Classic in Tucson, Ariz. last week, UC Santa Barbara debuted in a pair of national polls, the first time the team has been ranked nationally since the 2009 season.  The Gauchos checked in at No. 20 in the Collegiate Baseball Rankings and No. 23 in Baseball America. They also received votes in polls by USA Today, the NCBWA, and Perfect Game. The Big West currently has four teams ranked among the top-25 nationwide (CSUF, Cal Poly, UCSB, UCI). UCSB is also ranked 20th in the RPI, tops among conference schools.  

• Sensational Start
Sitting at 11-2, UCSB is off to one of the best starts in program history. This is currently the best 13-game start to a Gauchos season since 1992 (also 11-2) and it also the longest home winning streak to start a season since 2010. This early season hot-streak may be a carryover from last season, as UCSB has now won or split its last 10 series dating back to 2013, the longest such streak since 2001.

• Offense Firing On All Cylinders
Through 13 games, UCSB can boast one of the top all-around offenses in the country. The Gauchos lead the Big West and rank top-10 in the NCAA in all slash categories (.340 batting average ranks fourth in the country, .439 OBP ranks second, .466 slugging percentage ranks seventh).

• Tussling with Top Teams
UCSB is currently 3-0 this season against ranked teams, with all three victories coming away from home. The Gauchos toppled defending national champs and then-No. 19 UCLA on Feb. 25 before taking down 10th ranked Mississippi State twice in the Hi Corbett Classic at the University of Arizona last week.

• Ball Magnets
With 97 offensive hit-by-pitches in the 2013 campaign, UCSB set a new program record. So far, the Gauchos have picked up right where they left off last season, as they are currently second in the NCAA with an average of 2.69 plunked batters per game.

• Electric Epperson
Senior third baseman Joey Epperson may be seeing the ball as well as any batter in the country at the present. Among qualified NCAA players who have played more than three games, Epperson heads into this weekend tied for the lead with a .500 batting average. He has hit safely in all 13 games this season, giving him a 19-game hitting streak dating back to last year. Epperson also ranks second in the conference in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.585, .673). Besides his proclivity for hits, he has been a pest to pitchers and catchers alike, as he is the hardest batter to strike out in the conference (52 at bats per strikeout) and is a perfect 8-8 in stolen base attempts.

• Bullpen Getting the Job Done
A big part of UCSB's success early in the 2014 campaign has been the effectiveness of the team's relief pitchers. The Gaucho bullpen has combined for a 4-1 record and 2.71 ERA. Connor Baits (unscored on in 7.2 IP), Greg Mahle (team-high three wins, 1.69 ERA, 16 IP are second-most on staff), and Dillon Tate (three saves and flawless ERA in six appearances) have been especially vital in helping the Gauchos lock down games. UCSB's starters have collectively gone 7-1 with a 3.14 ERA.

*All national/conference ranks accurate as of Monday, unless otherwise noted*