March 20, 2004
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
With just nine games remaining before the Gauchos enter Big West Conference play, Santa Barbara is sitting on a 11-10 overall record. The Gauchos are hitting .294 as a team and have pitched their way to a 5.22 staff ERA as they enter this week's marathon matchup with the Cornell Big Red. UCSB has not played since Saturday, March 13 when they lost the rubber-match of a three-game series against Cal Poly. That week, the Gauchos dropped three of four games as they lost a mid-week home game against Loyola Marymount and then went on to drop two of three to the Mustangs over the weekend. Head Coach Bob Brontsema is hoping that this seven-day lay off, which allowed the Gauchos to finish their winter quarter finals, will provide his team with enough rest to carry it through the rest of the team's 53-game schedule.
Beginning Sunday, UCSB and Cornell will meet five times in seven days with contests also on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. While the Gauchos will be idle on Wednesday and Thursday, Cornell will travel north on the 101 freeway to take on UCSB's Big West rival Cal Poly for two games. In all, the Big Red will play seven games in seven days.
Now Pitching For the Gauchos...
UCSB's pitching staff will face an unsual task this week as the team plays five games in seven days, the most demanding stretch all season. Pitching coach Dan Ricabal will hand the game ball to four different pitchers, with sophomore right-hander Michael Martin (5-0) expected to get the nod in the series opener and finale. Fellow sophomore righty Steve Morlock will take the hill on Monday and will be followed by duo of freshman fireballers on Thursday and Friday. Right-hander Andy Graham will pitch on Thursday and right-hander Brian Tracy will start Friday before Martin returns to the mound on Saturday. Down in the bullpen, southpaw Ivan Ramirez has seen the most action with 13 appearances. The senior is 0-1 with a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched. Following him are senior closer Aaron Jones and junior right-hander Nate Holguin who have eached pitched in ten games and tossed a combined 24.2 innings. Jones has five saves.
Heavy Hitters Several Gaucho sluggers currently rank among the top batting leaders in the Big West Conference. Most notably, senior designated hitter Greg Powers is sitting in third place in the batting average category with a .418 mark. Powers leads the Big West with a .536 on-base percentage and ranks eighth with a .545 slugging percentage. Catcher Taylor Vogt is also swinging the bat well. The senior is third in the conference with a .625 slugging percentage and is tied for the second-most home runs with five. Senior third baseman Nate Sutton ranks second in the conference in runs scored (26) and stolen bases (12). With their overall team batting average of .294, the Gauchos are tied for third in the Big West.
The Brontsema File
Bob Brontsema enters his 11th season as head coach of the UC Santa Barbara baseball program. Last year Brontsema logged his 250th victory, becoming the third coach in school history to do so, and also cementing himself as the third winningest coach in UCSB history. He enters this season with a career mark of 263-269. Brontsema's team ended the 2003 season 25-28 overall and 8-13 in Big West Conference play. Brontsema's has been selected twice as Big West Coach of the Year. In 2001, his team finished with a mark of 40-17, good for a .701 winning percentage, the highest in school history. Brontsema's 2001squad also had 10 players sign professional contracts after the season. Brontsema was also selected as Big West Coach of the Year in 1996, when he piloted UCSB to a 32-20 overall mark and 14-7 showing in conference play.
Scouting the Big Red
Playing on the East Coast, Cornell, like all other Ivy League schools, is forced to start its season a full month after most West Coast schools swing into action. While the Gauchos enter this five-game homestand with an 11-10 record after 21 games, the Big Red is just 3-3, having only played six contests.
At the plate - Senior outfielder Jon Finch and freshman outfielder Kaleb Hutchinson have been leading the way with the bats so far. Finch is hitting .400 after 15 at bats including two doubles, a home run and seven RBI. Finch is slugging an impressive .733. Hutchinson, who has started all six Big Red games, is hitting .375 with four doubles and four RBI. As a team, Cornell is batting .283 with 14 doubles.
On the mound - The Big Red still has four pitchers posting 0.00 ERAs. Leading the way from the bullpen has been junior southpaw Tad Bardenwerper, who has tossed a scoreless 6.1 innings to begin the season. Luke Staskal, Cornell's most effective starter to date, is 0-0 with a 1.69 ERA after 10.2 innings in two starts. Conor Kelly, Rocky Collis and Dan Gala are all 1-1 and account for all six of Cornell's pitching decisions. As a staff, the Big Red has posted a 4.53 team ERA and are holding opponents to a .269 batting average.
This week's five games will mark the first ever meetings between UCSB and Cornell. However, in 2001, the Gauchos played two of Cornell's Ivy League opponents, Columbia and Dartmouth. In the four games against those two schools, UCSB went 4-0.
Head Coach Tom Ford
Tom Ford has been the head baseball coach at Cornell for 11 seasons and is the Ted Thoren Coach of Baseball, an honor that was bestowed in the summer of 1999 when the position was endowed by Rich Booth '82. Ford succeeded the legendary Thoren when he was named the Big Red's 15th head baseball coach in 1991. Prior to joining the Cornell staff, Ford was the associate head coach at Ithaca College for 10 years.