April 16, 2001
This Week In Gaucho Baseball (TWIGB)
Friday, April 20, 2 pm - at Sacramento State*
Saturday-Sunday, April 21-22, 1 pm - at Sacramento State*
Sure, the Gaucho pitching staff and its 4.30 ERA are the best the school's seen since 1984, but Bob Brontsema's team knows today's fan wants a gaudy offense, and it has obliged. The Gauchos' team batting average of .350 is the best in school history and second among all NCAA Division I schools, not to mention some 73 points higher than that of its opponents. One explanation is the high number of Gauchos hitting for a high average. All ten of UCSB's regulars are hitting over .300, with five of them at .380 or higher. Last year, catcher Donovan Warrecker's .320 average ranked him third on the team. This year, his .310 mark is good for just ninth. What's more, UCSB has out extra-base-hit its foes 147 to 85, including a 45-17 advantage in balls going over the fence. First baseman Tyler Von Schell leads the team with 26 extra-base knocks, including 14 home runs.
With the way junior transfer James Garcia (El Camino JC) has been pitching this season, his notoriety may soon spread beyond just the greater Santa Barbara area. Named Big West Pitcher of the Week today, Garcia improved to 6-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.97 in the Gauchos' win Thursday at Cal State Northridge. The Torrance native went the distance, his second complete game of the season, and held the Matadors to just three runs, two earned, on nine hits while tying a career-high with 11 strikeouts and walking just two. UCSB is 7-3 in Garcia's ten starts, but when the staff ace has left the game, the Gauchos have been behind only once, when Garcia lost 6-5 to Santa Clara pitching on three days rest. If you throw out the Santa Clara game, Garcia has not allowed more than three earned runs in an outing since the Gauchos' season opener at San Jose State back on February 2.
Right fielder and Santa Barbara native Ryan Spilborghs has been getting his fill as of late. Owner of a 16-game hit streak, Spilborghs has hit in 18 of UCSB's last 19 games. Since the Gauchos' March 19 loss to USC in which he went 2-for-3, Spilly has hit .438, the highest average on the team in that period. He has driven in 24 runs and scored 22 in the 22-game span. His two best days were a 4-for-5, three-RBI, two-run and two-steal game at Long Beach State, and Saturday's 3-for-4, three-RBI, three-run showing at Northridge in which he his his first home run of the season, a solo shot to right. Spilborghs has raised his average to .364 on the year, seventh on the team, to go with 33 RBI and 34 runs. He also leads the team with ten sacrifice bunts and has swiped 11 bases in 12 attempts.
Third baseman Dave Molidor has been, well, money this season. Molidor, who had the highest batting average on the team last season by 45 points at .378, is hitting a herculean .421 as a senior. His average is the highest in the Big West and 32nd-highest in the nation. But wait, there's more. Molidor is second on the team with nine home runs and 46 RBI. He ranks third in runs (41) and slugging (.703), while his 12 doubles tie him for the team lead. He has surpassed or will surpass his single season career highs in all the above categories. But what has Molidor done for me lately, you ask? Well, in opening the Big West season at Cal State Northridge, the Santa Rosa native hit his first career grand slam Friday and had the second two-homer game of his career Saturday. His seven RBI on the weekend led the team, and his 1.28 RBI per game rank him 23rd in the country.
What About Bob?
Bob Brontsema returns for his eighth season as Gaucho skipper. He owns a career record of 203-201 (.502). Brontsema's 200th win came April 7 vs. UC Riverside, a 7-2 triumph. UCSB's best record under Brontsema came in 1996, when it went 32-20 overall and 14-7 in Big West games, good for an NCAA Regionals appearance. With his 28-25 finish in 2000, Brontsema has posted two straight over-.500 campaigns, the school's first such achievement since 1992.
Gaucho Baseball: Who's Next?
It's not the California Lottery, but it's still pretty darn exciting. UCSB will play at Sacramento State this weekend in its second Big West series. The Hornets are 17-22 and 1-5 Big West after being swept by Cal State Fullerton over the weekend. UCSB lost two out of three last year in Sacramento.