April 29, 2004

Gauchos Look to Maintain Momentum as They Travel South to Play Fifth-Ranked Long Beach State

April 29, 2004

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A Quick Briefing
The Gauchos picked up their second win over a nationally ranked team last sunday with their 14-7 victory over no. 30 Cal State Fullerton. The Titans, however, took the first two games of the three-game Big West series by scores of 8-0 and 9-2. This weekend, UCSB travels down to No. 5 Long Beach State to face one of the nation's best pitchers, right-hander Jered Weaver, and a Dirtbag team which boasts the sixth best fielding percentage in the country. UCSB will counter with the nation's fourth best fielding percentage and a trio of right-handed pitchers.

On Deck
With just 13 games remaining in its 2004 schedule, the Gauchos have a 24-17 overall mark and a 2-7 conference record. UCSB will take on No. 5 Long Beach State for three games this weekend before returning home for its final four home games of the year. From May 7-9, the Gauchos will take on Cal State Northridge and then on Tuesday, May 11, will face off against non-confernce opponent Pepperdine in the make-up of a February 22 rainout.

A Look At Last Week
Cal State Fullerton 8, UCSB 0: No. 30 Cal State Fullerton scored four times in the third inning and Titan right-hander Jason Windsor pitched a complete game shutout as UC Santa Barbara fell to Fullerton 8-0 in game one of last weekend's three game Big West series. Windsor (4-4) completely shutdown a Gaucho offense that has scored 319 runs in 38 previous games, limiting UCSB to just four hits while waling one. He struck out five and faced just two batters over the minimum. Sophomore right-hander Michael Martin (8-3) suffered his third straight defeat after surrendering six runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings. Kurt Suzuki and Blake Davis each blasted home runs for the visiting Titans.

Weekend Recap
Cal State Fullerton 9, UCSB 2: Cal State Fullerton used three home runs from the middle of its lineup to provide all the offense it would need as the No. 30 Titans defeated UC Santa Barbara 9-2 Saturday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Felipe Garcia, Sergio Pedroza and Danny Dorn, the Titans' four, five and six hole hitters, each went deep while southpaw Ricky Romero held the Gauchos to just one run on five hits over eight innings. Southpaw Ivan Ramirez and right-hander Loren Fraser pitched a combined three scoreless innings in relief before Fullerton touched Nate Holguin for three runs in the ninth. Freshman shortstop Chris Valaika provided a bright spot for the Gauchos as he launched his seventh home run of the season in the Gaucho ninth.

UCSB 14, Cal State Fullerton 7: UC Santa Barbara overcame a six-run deficit and exploded for eight runs in the eighth as the Gauchos avoided a three game sweep and knocked off No. 30 Cal State Fullerton 14-7 Sunday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The Gauchos scored in double digits for the first time since March 25 and the win also marked UCSB's first victory over the Titans since May 12, 2001. UCSB's three through seven hole hitters went a combined 13-for-25 and drove in eight RBI. Seven of nine Gaucho starters collected at least one hit and designated hitter C.J. Cook, who entered the game in the seventh, blasted his second career home run in the eighth.

Gauchos On the Air
Local Santa Barbara radio station KTLK 1340 AM will be broadcasting nine of the remaining 13 games of UCSB's schedule. Brock Bowling will be on the call for all three games weekend for KTLK along with other on-air personalities such as KEYT-TV's Gerry Fall. On Friday, the Gauchos can also be heard on UCSB's very own KCSB 91.9 FM with Darren Schultz and Tiffany Polfer.

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 2001 squad 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.

Friday
Michael Martin (RHP)
Record: 8-3 ERA: 4.79 K/BB Ratio: 1.1:1
Sophomore looking to win his ninth game after suffering defeats in his last three outings against No. 10 UC Irvine, UC Riverside and No. 30 Cal State Fullerton

Saturday
Andy Graham (RHP)
Record: 2-4 ERA: 4.91 K/BB Ratio: 1.9:1
Right-hander has only received 13 runs of support over last three outings.

Sunday
Steve Morlock (RHP)
Record: 6-4 ERA: 4.88 K/BB Ratio: 1.2:1
Has not lost since March 6 at New Mexico.

About the Dirtbags
The Dirtbags enter this weekend's series against the Gauchos with the best record of any Big West team at 30-9 overall and a perfect 9-0 in conference. Winners of nine straight and 14 of its last 16, the Dirtbags currently possess a one game lead over second place Cal State Fullerton in the Big West. Picked to finish second in the conference behind Fullerton in the conference's preseason coaches' poll, Long Beach has 13 wins against ranked opponents this season as it boasts a No. 5 seat in both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball's weekly national rankings.

On The Mound
With a 2.34 team ERA, Long Beach State has the second best mark in the nation led by junior right-hander and pre-season All American Jered Weaver. At 12-0, Weaver is arguably the best pitcher in the country and may also possibly be the first overall pick in this June's amatuer Major League Baseball draft. His 1.13 ERA is good for third in the country and his 13.5 strikeouts per game average is best in the NCAA. The Gauchos will face Weaver on Friday before seeing southpaw Cesar Ramos on Saturday. Ramos is 8-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 83.1 innings pitched this season. On Sunday, Long Beach State will send another southpaw, Jason Vargas, to the mound. Vargas will be making his eleventh start of the year. So far he has posted a 6-5 record and a 3.42 ERA.

At The Plate
The Dirtbags bring a team .297 batting average into the series with the Gauchos, led by catcher Brad Davis. The right-handed hitting junior has a .357 batting average and has popped three home runs and driven in 26 RBI. Slowed by their large and windblow stadium, Blair Field, Long Beach has only scored 213 runs this season but have six starting position players batting over .300. Along with Davis, John Bowker and Jason Vargas both each have three home runs and a combined 70 RBI. Last weekend against Cal Poly, Bowker drove in five RBI and went 6-for-10 in the series' first two games. The Dirtbags eventually swept all three games from the Mustangs.

Series Record
Long Beach State holds the all-time edge over UCSB 57-50. In 2003, the Gauchos took one of three from the Dirtbags at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. After snapping their nine-game losing streak with a 6-5 come-from-behind victory in game one last year, the Gauchos fell 11-3 and 9-3 in the final two games of the series. Gaucho southpaw Ivan Ramirez picked up the win in UCSB's only win of the weekend.

Malec Honored By Big West
Junior second baseman Chris Malec was named Co-Big West Player of the Week on Monday, March 1, by the conference. The Laguna Niguel, Calif., native exploded for a .368 batting average over four games that week while driving in ten RBI and scoring four runs. In the Gauchos' 22-9 victory over Fresno State on Feb. 28, Malec went 3-for-6 with five RBI and two doubles. He collected hits in each of the Gauchos' games during the week. Malec also stole two bases over the week and posted a .474 slugging percentage. The selection was a first for Malec and also marked the first time any Gaucho had been awarded the honor since Mike Kolbach on April 23, 2001.

Gauchos On The National Scene
UCSB has only committed 39 errors in 41 games so far this season. The Gauchos team fielding percentage of .976 is good for fourth best in the entire nation. Creighton University, which holds the best fielding percentage of any NCAA Division 1 team is only .004 percentage points ahead of UCSB at .980. Offensively the Gauchos are also turning heads around the country. UCSB's 8.2 runs per game mark is the 20th best mark in the nation. Senior Nate Sutton is helping to lead that charge with 1.29 runs per game. He ranks 21st among all players in that category.

The World According To Boyd
Boyd's World, a college baseball website featuring alternative statistics and rankings to the mainstream polls, lists UCSB as the 58th best team in the nation in terms of Iterative Strength Rating (ISR). ISR is a measure of team quality for NCAA Division I baseball based on record and strength of schedule. Boydsworld.com also lists the Gauchos as 97th with a .520 "pseudo-RPI" ranking.

Freshman On Fire
Freshman shortstop Chris Valaika has not disappointed Gaucho fans despite extremely high expectations entering the season. The 18-year old from Newhall, Calif., is third on the squad with a .331 average. He is second with seven home runs and has been extremely sure-handed in the field. Being the lone Gaucho to have never missed a single pitch in UCSB's 38 games this season, Valaika has only made ten errors at shortstop, good for a .955 fielding percentage. He also leads the Big West in assists with 145.

Relief Workers
UCSB's top three relivers, Alex McRobbie, Loren Fraser and Ivan Ramirez have combined to post a combined 2.36 season ERA. The trio is 5-2 and has allowed just three earned runs over 28.1 conference innings, good for a 0.96 ERA in Big West play.

Caution: Falling Record
In their 31-3 rout over Cornell on March 25, the Gauchos set a new school record for RBI, twice tied the school record for at-bats in an inning, fell one run short of tying the school record for runs in a game and set new season highs for runs, hits, RBI, doubles, home runs and totals bases. UCSB tallied a total of 30 RBI, surpassing the mark of 28 set by the 1979 and 1997 squads and also knocked out 27 hits, including six doubles and four round-trippers.

Caution: Falling Record II
With 22 fielding assists, the Gauchos also set a new school record for assists in a game on March 27 against Cornell. The total eclipses the mark of 19 set against USC in 1990. Then on March 30 against LMU, 15 patient UCSB batters drew walks, setting a new school record for bases on balls in a game.

Pretty Good Run
In its 16-4 victory over Westmont Collegeon April 14, UCSB surpassed its total run output from 2003 as the Gauchosscored their 302nd run of the season. Last year, UCSB finished with 293 runs. UCSB also passed last year's total of 261 RBI that day as the Gauchos racked up 13 more, bring their 2004 total to 269. Currently, UCSB has 319 runs scored and 286 team RBI after 38 games. Santa Barbara has also been collecting bases on balls at a torrid pace. The team's 201 walks is nearly 40 more than the 2003 Gauchos had.

Mashing Malec
Not only does Malec lead the Gauchos with 41 RBI, he also leads the Big West Conference with 12 multiple-RBI performances. Eight times the junior has collected two RBI in a game, three times he has totaled three and on February 28, Malec knocked in five RBI.

Mound Meltdown
On April April 17 in their lopsided loss to UC Riverside, the Gaucho pitching staff surrendered a season-high 18 runs, 17 of which were earned. Prior to that game, the most runs UCSB had given up was 11 (Feb. 14 vs. San Jose State and March 9 vs. LMU).

Caesar Uyesaka Construction
The third base side of Caesar Uyesaka Stadium will be under construction for the remainder of the 2004 season. Beginning on March 21, ground was broken for a new state-of-the-art clubhouse facility for UCSB baseball. Please pardon the dust and disturbance when at UCSB home games.

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