UCSB Hopes to Remain Hot as it Hosts 17th-Ranked and First-Place Long Beach State this Weekend
May 8, 2007
Games No. 44-46
Friday, May 11 - 2:00 p.m. (PDT)
Saturday, May 12 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
Sunday, May 13 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
UC Santa Barbara vs. Long Beach State
at UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium
The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara enters the weekend with an overall record of 21-22 and a Big West mark of 9-6. The Gauchos won two out of three games at Cal State Fullerton over the weekend and moved into third-place in the league, 2.5 games behind first-place Long Beach State and 1.5 games back of second-place UC Riverside. UCSB is a half game ahead of UC Irvine and one game ahead of Fullerton and Cal Poly. It was the first time that the Gauchos had won a series from Cal State Fullerton since the 2001 season when they also won two out of three at Goodwin Field. UCSB has now won 10 of its last 15 games overall and four of six in Big West play.
UCSB Will Complete League Play At Home
After playing nine of its first 15 Big West games on the road, UCSB will close out the year with six consecutive conference home games. The Gauchos, who went 5-4 in league road games, will host first-place Long Beach State for three this weekend and then will complete their Big West season on May 25-27, with three home games against Cal Poly.
Valaika Named Big West Player Of The Week
Freshman second baseman Matt Valaika became the first Gaucho to be named Easton/Big West Player of the Week this season after he helped UCSB to a pair of wins at nationally-ranked Cal State Fullerton. Valaika went 4-for-12 (.333) in the three games, but he was 4-of-9 (.444) in the final two games of the series, both wins. In addition, he hit home runs in each of the Gaucho wins, collected four RBI and four runs scored. Finally, Valaika was on base and scored in the ninth-inning rallies that highlighted the wins on Saturday and Sunday. He is the first freshman to earn the Player of the Week award this season.
The Gauchos will host Long Beach State in a three-game weekend series beginning on Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. The 49ers are 30-14 overall and 10-2 in the Big West Conference. They are in first-place and lead UC Riverside by one game. As is often the case, Long Beach's stingy pitching is a key. The 49ers lead the league with an overall ERA of 3.39. Andrew Leibel leads the way with seven wins and an ERA of 2.47. He ranks second in the league in ERA. Omar Arif is sixth with a 3.12 ERA. Offensively, Long Beach is led by second baseman Matt Cline who is hitting .350 and has an on base percentage of .450. Cline has been hit by pitches 14 times this season, tied for the league-lead. Shortstop Danny Espinosa is hitting .329 and has a team-leading 12 doubles and center fielder Robert Perry has three triples.
The Recent Past
UCSB won two out of three conference games at Cal State Fullerton last weekend. After getting pounded 12-1 in the series opener, the Gauchos rebounded with come-from-behind wins in the final two games. On Friday night Titan right hander Wes Roemer stymied UCSB on six hits, allowing only a ninth inning run, for a complete game win. Roemer had 13 strikeouts and no walks. On Saturday, the Gauchos won a see-saw game. After falling behind 4-0 after one inning, Santa Barbara scored two in the second, five in the fifth and one in the sixth to take an 8-4 lead. Fullerton scored three in the sixth to narrow the gap to 8-7 and then tied it up with a single run in the eighth. UCSB then struck for three runs in the top of the ninth and held on for an 11-9 win. Third baseman Patrick Rose, designated hitter Cody Dee and shortstop Shane Carlson each had three hits in the game and second baseman Matt Valaika belted his fourth home run of the season and had three RBI. On Sunday, the Gauchos rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth to turn a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 win. Valaika hit his second home run in as many games and went 3-for-4 to lead the win.
Junior left hander Chuck Huggins, who leads the Gauchos in wins with six, will miss the next two weekends with a sore arm. He will be replaced as the Friday starter by senior righty Brian Tracy (1-2, 4.01), who returns to the starting rotation for the first time in several weeks. The Saturday and Sunday starters will remain the same. Mike Ford (2-1, 6.13) will climb the hill on Saturday and Jeff Braun (2-6, 6.36) will open the final game of the Long Beach State series. Steve Morlock, who began the season as a starter, will remain in the bullpen.
The Bob Brontsema File
2007 marks the 26th year of head coach Bob Brontsema's involvement in the UCSB baseball program. He is now in his 14th season as head coach after ten years as an assistant and two as a player. Brontsema's career record is 369-370-2 (.499). He has been selected Big West Coach of the Year twice, in 1996 when he guided the Gauchos to a 32-20 record and an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament, and in 2001, when he led the team to a 40-17 mark and another NCAA Tournament berth. The .702 winning percentage in 2001 ranks as the third highest in school history. In 2004, Brontsema's Gauchos posted the second most overall wins in his career as head coach, going 33-21. Milestone dates in his coaching career include April 27, 1997, marking his 100th career win with a 16-4 victory over the University of Pacific and April 7, 2001, which saw him earn career win number 200 with a 7-2 victory over UC Riverside. A 6-1 victory over San Jose State on Feb. 13, 2005 marked yet another milestone for Brontsema, career win number 300. Victory number 344, which pushed him past Dave Gorrie and into the No. 2 spot in UCSB career wins, came May 12, 2006 in an 8-6 win over Long Beach State.
Brontsema Moves Up
Head coach Bob Brontsema enters the series against Long Beach State with 151 coaching victories in Big West Conference play. The 151 wins puts him eight ahead of UNLV's Fred Dallimore for fifth on the league's all-time list. Brontsema needs 15 more league wins to catch former Cal State Fullerton head coach Augie Garrido.
Rank And File
UCSB has played 19 of its 43 games this season against teams that either are or have been ranked at one point. The Gauchos played four games against Pepperdine, three against Hawaii and three at TCU in addition to their league tilts against UC Irvine, UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. Things don't ease up much in the future either. UCSB still has three-game sets with Long Beach State and Cal Poly, plus a pair of games against USC. By season's end, Santa Barbara will have played a minimum of 27 games against ranked opponents.
Close, But Sometimes The Banana
UCSB has been pretty good in close games this year. The Gauchos are 13-8 in games decided by one or two runs. They are 9-5 in one-run games. Of the 15 Big West Conference games played thus far, eight have been decided by one run and Santa Barbara is 5-3 in those games.
Out Of The Darkness
UCSB's series-opening loss at Cal State Fullerton on Friday was the team's fifth without a win in night games this season. On Saturday night, the Gauchos scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to break an 8-8 tie, and then they held on for an 11-9 win. It was UCSB's first victory in a night game this season.
The Gauchos' win over the Titans on Saturday ended a five-game losing streak in night games. On Sunday, UCSB ended two more streaks as it scored four runs in the top of the ninth to overcome a 6-3 deficit and post a 7-6 win. It marked the first time this season that the Gauchos won a game in which they trailed after eight. They are now 1-19 in those games. Also, it was the first time this season that Fullerton had lost a game when leading after eight. The Titans are now 24-1 in those situations.
Since his 24-game hitting streak ended on March 28, first baseman Robbie Blauer has gone into a tailspin. He has collected hits in just 17 of the 19 games since the end of the streak, including the last 11 in a row. Clearly, Blauer has not gone into a tailspin. He leads the Gauchos and is second in the Big West Conference with a .389 batting average and he paces the league in on base percentage at .483. While he is batting .389 on the year, Blauer has gone 15-of-40, .375, during his current 11-game hitting streak. In the first game of UCSB's series at Cal State Fullerton last weekend, Blauer had a pair of hits off of Titan ace Wes Roemer. It was the 17th time this season that he had at least two hits in a game. The senior from Huntington Beach also leads the Gauchos in RBI (35), hits, (65), walks (31) and doubles (11). He ranks in the Big West top-10 in batting average, on base percentage, doubles, RBI, walks, slugging percentage and total bases.
Junior center fielder Chris Fox enters the series against Long Beach State with a .327 batting average. He also enters the series with the longest current hitting streak on the Gaucho roster. Fox has collected at least one hit in 15 consecutive games and in that time he has elevated his batting average from .284 to its current .327. In the 15 games, he has gone 25-of-63, .397. Also, in the last 15, Fox has walked eight times and been hit by a pitch, giving him an on base percentage of .472. Not coincidentally, UCSB has gone 10-5 over the same span. Fox has two or more hits 14 times this season, including seven times during his current 15-game hitting streak. He leads the team with 31 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. In fact, he has stolen 13 of 17 on the year, including 10 of his last 11 attempts. His overall on base percentage has risen to .422 and ranks 10th in the Big West.
Back To The Future
As a freshman in 2003, right handed pitcher Steve Morlock was UCSB's closer. He led the team with nine saves that season, the third most in school history. As a sophomore, Morlock entered the starting rotation and he remained there through his junior season in 2005 and, after a redshirt year in 2006, he opened the 2007 season by making eight consecutive starts. After his last start, March 31 at TCU, Morlock was sidelined with an arm injury, and when he returned he did so as a reliever. He has made four appearances since his return, allowing no runs in 2.1 innings, and he has produced three saves. In fact, Morlock has saves in each of last three appearances and now has 12 for his career, tied for fifth all-time. In addition to his 12 career saves, the Kentfield, Calif., native has exactly 20 career wins making him the only pitcher in UCSB history to record 20 or more career wins and 10 or more career saves. His 20 wins rank tied for sixth all-time and he is the only pitcher in school history to rank in the top-10 in both categories.
Smelling Like A Rose
Junior Patrick Rose continues to cement his claim on the Gaucho third base job. Rose has hit in 10 straight games, going 17-for-41 over that span, .416. He has seen his batting average jump from a low of .190 on April 5, to its current .298 level. In fact, Rose in 15 Big West games, Rose is batting .365, second on the team to Robbie Blauer. His 23 hits in league games are the most of any Gaucho. The native of Laguna Niguel tied his career-high with three hits in Saturday's win at Cal State Fullerton. He has now collected three hits three times, all in the last 15 games. In fact, Rose has 12 multiple-hit games this season, nine of which have come in the last 15 games.
Freshman second baseman Matt Valaika achieved a pair of firsts this week. He became the first UCSB player to be selected Big West Player of the Week this season and he became the first freshman to earn the award in 2007. Valaika went 4-for-12, .333, in three games against Cal State Fullerton. He actually collected all four of his hits in the final two games of the series, including a pair of home runs. Valaika has now hit three home runs in his last four games and he has eight RBI in his last six games, giving him 26 on the season, third on the team. He has hit in five of the last six games and since returning from a collar bone injury on April 13, he has 14-of-46, .304, with three home runs, two triples, one double, 14 RBI and 11 runs scored. Valaika has improved his batting average from 31 points since returning. When he went down the injury, the Valencia, Calif., native was batting .217 and he is now hitting .248. He also ranks second on the team with five home runs.
Shane On You
Sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson has become a serious offensive contributor as the season has progressed. He enters the series against Long Beach State with a batting average of .235, but he has hit in five of his last seven games, going 11-for-24 (.458) over that span, to improve his average from .050 points from .185 to its current level of .235. Carlson has had three three-hit games in the last seven, including a 3-for-5 performance in Saturday's win at Cal State Fullerton. His on base percentage during the current run is .519 and he has also had two doubles, seven runs scored and four RBI.