No. 23 UCSB Flies East for Three-Game Series at Kentucky

Billy Fredrick (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Billy Fredrick (photo by Eric Isaacs)

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• The Schedule
Friday, March 3 at 1:00 p.m. vs. Kentucky (4-5)
Saturday, March 4 at 10:00 a.m. vs. Kentucky
Sunday, March 5 at 9:00 a.m. vs. Kentucky
at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington, Kty.
All-time record vs. the Wildcats: 3-1
Last meeting: UCSB 11-4 UK (2/26/16 @ Tony Gwynn Classic)
UCSB Streak / Last 10:  Lost 1 / 4-4
UK Streak / Last 10:  Won 3 / 4-5
Audio/Live Stats: UCSBGauchos.com

• On Deck
This week, UC Santa Barbara starts a seven-game road swing with a three-game series at the University of Kentucky, starting at 1:00 p.m. PST on Friday. The Gauchos and Wildcats resume their series with contests on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and Sunday at 9:00 a.m. UCSB travels to BYU next weekend for a four-game set.

• Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday: RHP Noah Davis (2-0, 2.08 ERA) vs. RHP Sean Hjelle (0-1, 11.57 ERA)
Saturday: LHP Kyle Nelson (1-1, 2.00 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Logue (1-1, 3.48 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Steven Ledesma (0-0, 1.04 ERA) vs. LHP Ross Massey (0-1, 5.00 ERA)

• The Week in Review
After a tough opening week, UCSB rebounded for a three-game sweep of Tulane last weekend before dropping a 4-1 midweek game to St. Mary's. The Gauchos exploded for seven runs early in the series opener against the Green Wave, which proved plenty for Noah Davis who earned the W after allowing two runs in seven innings. Sam Cohen hit a pair of home runs on Saturday to lead a 14-1 rout of Tulane. The Gauchos had to rally on Sunday, clawing back from deficits of 2-0, 4-2, and 5-4 to claim a walk-off win via a Thomas Rowan single. The Gauchos had just three hits and committed five errors against the Gaels on Tuesday, dropping to 0-2 in midweeks this year.

• Poll Position
UCSB appeared in a trio of major national polls this week, coming in as high as No. 23 (USA Today Coaches poll, Baseball America). The Gauchos also checked in at No. 29 in the NCBWA rankings.

• On the Upswing
The Gauchos are coming off the two most historic seasons in program history. Last year, UCSB rode a postseason hot streak to the school's first-ever College World Series berth, winning a school-record 43 game against Division I opponents on the way. In 2015, the Gauchos won 40 regular season games, earned the first No. 1 seed in program history, and had a team-record 10 players drafted, including No. 4 overall pick Dillon Tate.

• Burns Named Big West Field Player of the Week
UCSB junior left fielder Colton Burns was named the Big West Field Player of the Week on Monday after a dominant four-game performance at the top of the Gaucho lineup. The College of the Canyons transfer batted .700 overall for the week, worked nine walks, and reached base in 16 of 19 plate appearances.He had at least one hit and at least two walks in all four games. His top performance came on Saturday against Tulane, as he went 2-3, walked twice, and scored four runs in a 14-1 win. Burns leads the Big West in both base on balls (10), and on-base percentage (.571), and his walk total ranks ninth in the country.

• Preseason Publicity
UCSB was ranked in nearly every major preseason poll, coming in as high as No. 18 (Collegiate Baseball) while also appearing at No. 19 (Baseball America), No. 21 (NCBWA), No. 23 (USA Today), and No. 25 (D1Baseball). The Gauchos were also picked to finish second in the always-strong Big West Conference.

• Non-Conference, No Problem
UCSB has been tough to beat in non-conference play in recent years, going 86-27 (.761) against out-of-league foes since 2014. This trend has been doubly true at home, as the Gauchos have lost a total of one non-conference series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium since the start of the 2013 season (Oregon in 2015).

• Bullpen Thriving
Despite being made up almost entirely of newcomers, the Gaucho bullpen has proven to be a strength so far in 2017 and especially last week. The Gaucho relief corps combined for a 2.63 ERA over four games last week, including highlight performances from highly-touted freshmen Ben Brecht (2 1/3 innings, no runs) and Chris Lincoln (1 1/3 innings, no hits allowed). The Gauchos' top reliever so far has been Steven Ledesma, who gave up just two hits over 4 2/3 innings last week, earning a promotion to the rotation.

• Just A Little Bit
Through the team's first eight games, a clear trend is emerging: score even a few runs and you will win. The Gauchos are 4-0 this season when scoring more than two runs, but the offense has produced two runs or fewer in each of the team's four losses.

• Good Memories
It hasn't been long since UCSB stepped foot in Kentucky, as in the 2016 Super Regionals the Gauchos knocked off No. 2 Louisville in back-to-back games at Patterson Stadium. The Cardinals were 36-1 on their home turf entering the Supers. Sam Cohen ended the series with a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth of game two.