Gauchos Welcome UC Irvine For Three-Game Set Starting Thursday

Noah Davis (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Noah Davis (photo by Eric Isaacs)

• The Schedule
Thursday, April 13 at 3:00 p.m. vs. UC Irvine (12-17, 1-2 Big West)
Friday, April 14 at 3:00 p.m. vs. UC Irvine
Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m. vs. UC Irvine
at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium
All-time record vs. the Anteaters: 43-35
Record vs. UCI in Checketts era: 7-8
UCSB home record / UCI away record: 10-6 / 3-6
2016 series: UCSB wins 2 of 3 in Irvine, May 20-22
UCSB Streak / Last 10:  Won 1 / 5-5
UCI State Streak / Last 10:  Lost 6 / 1-9
UCSB / UCI RPI: 116 / 118 (as of Apr. 12)

• The Week Ahead
This week, UCSB welcomes UC Irvine to Santa Barbara for a three-game Big West Conference set, the third league series for the Gauchos and the second for the Anteaters. After a 9-4 start including a series win over then-No. 1 TCU, UC Irvine is reeling having won just once in their last 13 games. This weekend's series will run from Thursday to Saturday due to Easter being on Sunday.

• Gauchos on the Air
All three of this weekend's UCSB baseball games will feature live video and audio broadcasts on UCSBGauchos.com. Voice of the Gauchos Gerry Fall will will handle play-by-play for the video streams alongside color commentator Bob Brontsema, former UCSB head baseball coach. Kevin Cannon will be on the mic for the audio broadcasts. Links to each broadcast can be found on the UCSB baseball schedule page. 

• Projected Starting Pitchers
Thursday: RHP Noah Davis (5-3, 5.44 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Bocko (0-2, 4.76 ERA)
Friday: LHP Kyle Nelson (4-3, 3.74 ERA) vs. RHP Louis Raymond (4-3, 4.43 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Chris Clements (1-5, 5.66 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Vargas (0-2, 4.91 ERA)

• The Week in Review
Over the last week, UCSB dropped two of three to CSUN in Northridge before recovering for a 10-3 midweek win over Nevada on Tuesday. Tei Vanderford pitched the Matadors to a 7-3 win on Friday, then the Gauchos swatted four home runs in a 15-6 Saturday rout to set up the first rubber match between the two teams since 2009. Unfortunately, that game ended in hearbreak for UCSB as Nolan Bumstead hit a walk-off three run home run in the bottom of the ninth for the game and series win. Ben Brecht allowed one earned while pitching into the seventh and JJ Muno and Kenny Corey drove in three runs apiece to lead the Gauchos over the Wolf Pack on Tuesday. 

• Battling the Anteaters
Though UCI was able to sweep UCSB in two of the first three years of Andrew Checketts' tenure, the Gauchos have turned it around in recent years with series wins over UCI in each of the last two seasons. The last UCI-UCSB series resulted in a Gaucho sweep, while UCSB pulled out two of three in Irvine last year, with the rubber match come-from-behind win arguably serving as a turning point en route to the Gauchos' run to the postseason. 

• Hitting the Weight Room
In their series with CSUN last week, UCSB hit a total of seven home runs including a four-dinger performance on Saturday. Those four roundtrippers were the most single-game home runs by the Gauchos in the Andrew Checketts era (since 2012). The two teams combined for 13 homers in the three-game series. 

• Sluggers
After last weekend's slugfest in the San Fernando Valley, UCSB now leads the Big West with a .405 team slugging percentage. Austin Bush's .518 slugging percentage and six home runs are a big part of that trend, but five regulars have slugging percentages over .400. 

• Burns Setting The Table
College of the Canyons transfer Colton Burns has been an on-base machine in his first season for UCSB, ranking near the top of the Big West in a number of offensive categories. The second baseman leads the league in walks with 23, is second with a .466 on-base percentage, is fifth with a .355 batting average. He was named Big West Field Player of the Week on Feb. 27 after reaching base 16 times in 19 plate appearances in games against CSU Bakersfield and Tulane.

• Smith Breaking Through
A starter in just two of the team's first nine games of the season, true freshman Armani Smith has been tearing the cover off the ball since becoming a lineup regular on Mar. 10. In the month of March alone, he had a team-high seven multi-game hits, slashed .413/.417/.557, and became the usual No. 3 hitter in the lineup. Against Long Beach State, Smith helped the Gauchos to a 3-2 Friday win by powering a solo homer to dead center field off reigning Big West Pitcher of the Year Darren McCaughan in the bottom of the sixth inning, his first career roundtripper. Smith has hits in 15 of his last 17 games, including nine multi-hit performances over that stretch. 

• 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.