May 7, 2007
IRVINE, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara freshman second baseman Matt Valaika was named the Easton Big West Conference Player of the Week for the week ending May 6, it was announced Monday. Valaika hit .333 with four runs scored and four RBI in three games against 20th-ranked Cal State Fullerton over the weekend, leading the Gauchos to their first series win over the Titans since 2001.
The Valencia, Calif. native bounced back from a 0-for-3 performance against Fullerton and current Big West Pitcher of the Week Wes Roemer in UCSB's 12-1 loss Friday night and had a tremendous showing in Santa Barbara's two wins. Valaika went 1-for-5 Saturday, scored a pair of runs and drove in three to help the Gauchos out-gun the Titans 11-9. He was even better Sunday, finishing 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a run batted in, as Santa Barbara used a four run ninth inning to come from five down to defeat Fullerton 7-6 and capture the series.
In UCSB's two victories, Valaika hit .444 (4-for-9) and hit a home run in each contest. He now has a total of five round trippers this season and is just one behind Mario Lewis with six. He also reached base and scored in the decisive ninth innings on Saturday and Sunday.
This is Valaika's first Big West Player of the Week award and the first for the Gauchos this season. Valaika, who was also named the Golden One Credit Union Athlete of the Week Monday, became the first freshman to earn conference player of the week accolades this season.
After a very successful 4-2 road trip, UCSB returns to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for a three-game set with Long Beach State this weekend. The Gauchos will look to gain ground on the league-leading Dirtbags during the series that kicks off Friday, May 11 at 2:00 p.m.