Gauchos Head Into Final Stretch On Seven Game Streak

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May 11, 2004

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

FIRST PITCH: A seven game winning streak for most teams would usually mark the longest of the season. But not for UCSB. The Gauchos are currently riding their second extended winning streak of the season, having won their last seven Big West Conference games. Earlier in the year from March 21 to April 4 the Gauchos ran off a series of nine straight wins, meaning that over half of UCSB's 30 wins have come while the Gauchos are streaking. With seven games remaining, six against Big West opponents, Santa Barbara finds itself tied for fourth place in the conference with UC Irvine and just one game behind third-place UC Riverside. A third place finish in the Big West is expected to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in June.

On Deck
With just seven games remaining in its 2004 schedule, the Gauchos have a 30-17 overall mark and a 8-7 conference record. UCSB will play its final regular season home game on Tuesday against Pepperdine. That game will be the make-up of a February 22 rainout. On Thursday, the Gauchos will travel north to Stockton to prepare for a three-game weekend series against the struggling Pacific Tigers. To close out the campaign, Santa Barbara will square off against an even worse off Cal Poly squad which is currently mired in a nine-game losing streak.

Gauchos Earn Second Consecutive Big West series sweep
Still inspired by their sweep of Long Beach State a week ago, the Gauchos completed their second consecutive Big West series sweep against Cal State Northridge last weekend. While taking the three games by scores of 11-3, 13-6 and 13-6, the Gauchos recorded their 30th win of the season and moved over .500 in conference play for the first time since April 14, 2003. On Friday, right-hander Michael Martin (9-3) picked up his first win in over a month and right-fielder Matt Wilkerson went 3-for-4 with an RBI to lead the offensive charge. Greg Powers and Chris Malec also contributed with two hits while Aaron Jones pitched two innings of scoreless relief to close out the game. Wilkerson struck again on Saturday as the 2002 Freshman All-American drilled his fifth and sixth home runs of the year and finished with a career high five RBI. Seniors Nate Sutton and Brian Adams went back-to-back in the Gaucho eighth and Andy Graham threw five innings for his fourth win of the year. On Sunday, Santa Barbara ripped the game wide open with an 11-run first inning and three Gaucho hurlers combined to hold the lead over the final eight innings. For the Gauchos, freshman Chris Valaika and sophomore Bill Rowe each had three hits and a combined six RBI while senior Greg Powers drove in three himself. All but one UCSB starter had at least one base hit and all but two knocked in an RBI. Loren Fraser (5-1) pitched three innings in relief of starting pitcher Steve Morlock to pick up the victory in relief. The second consecutive Big West sweep marks the first time the Gauchos have accomplished such a feat since 1996.

Gauchos On the Air
Local Santa Barbara radio stations KTLK AM 1340 and KTMS AM 990 will be broadcasting five of the remaining seven games of UCSB's schedule. Brock Bowling will be on the call for Saturday and Sunday's game this weekend for the Gauchos. Should the Los Angeles Lakers play on Saturday afternoon, the UCSB broadcast will be available on AM 990. If no Laker game, the Gauchos can be heard on AM 1340. Sunday's game is definitively scheduled for AM 1340. Also, Santa Barbara's Cox Channel 8 will be replaying the broadcast of last Friday's game against CSUN five times this week. The game can be seen on Channel 8 at noon on Tuesday through Saturday.

The Brontsema File
Bob Brontsema is in 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. He also ranks second in wins among all active Big West coaches, behind only George Horton of Cal State Fullerton.

Gaucho Starting Rotation
TUESDAY
Brian Tracy (RHP)
Record: 1-1 ERA: 6.75
Making his third start of the season

FRIDAY
Michael Martin (RHP)
Record: 9-3 ERA: 4.97
Picked up first win in over a month last Friday vs. CSUN

SATURDAY
Andy Graham (RHP)
Record: 4-4 ERA: 4.77
Has not lost since April 14 against UC Riverside.

SUNDAY Steve Morlock (RHP)
Record: 6-4 ERA: 4.74
Has eight game unbeaten streak; had shortest outing of the year (4.2 IP) last Sunday.

About the Waves
With a series sweep of Portland last weekend, Pepperdine clinched a share of the West Coast Conference's Western Division title. The Waves (23-25, 17-7 WCC) have won four of their last six and are fresh off a three-game stretch over the Pilots in which they outscored Portland 27-4. Pepperdine boasts a .307 team batting average, led by Luke Salas, who in 44 games, is hitting .366 with three home runs and 26 RBI. Freshman Chad Tracy, brother of UCSB's scheduled starting pitcher Brian, leads the Waves with nine home runs while Steve Kleen leads the squad with 41 RBI.

Gauchos vs. Pepperdine
UCSB and Pepperdine split the first two games of this year's series with the Waves taking game one 6-4 and the Gauchos rebounding in game two 6-5. The games were played on a Friday and Monday back in February with the originally scheduled Saturday and Sunday contests being washed away by rain. That Monday game was a makeup of the rained out Saturday game and this Tuesday's game will be the makeup of the Sunday contest. Pepperdine leads the all-time series against UCSB 47-48.

About the Tigers
Pacific will enter this weekend's series against UCSB in seventh place in the Big West with a 18-28 overall record and a 3-12 mark in conference. Having lost 15 of their last 18 games, the Tigers are looking to rebound and play spoiler against the fourth place Gauchos. Pacific has a conference low .248 team batting average and has the second highest ERA in the Big West (6.18). The Tigers' lone hitter over .300 is Jesse Kovacs, who leads the team with 54 hits and is third with 24 RBI. Eric Stolp and Mike Mathews will take the hill against UCSB on Friday and Saturday. Sunday's starter is still TBA.

Gauchos vs. Pacific
UCSB holds a 58-24 all-time advantage; Gauchos won two of three last year.

Gaucho Notebook
LOREN FRASER NAMED BIG WEST PITCHER OF THE WEEK: Gaucho junior right-hander Loren Fraser was honored as Pitcher of the Week by the Big West Conference on May 3 after he helped lead the Gauchos to their three-game sweep of Long Beach State. The two-time walk-on recorded his first two career saves as he held the Dirtbags scoreless on just one hit over 3.1 innings of work on Saturday and Sunday. Fraser is the first Gaucho to receive the honor since James Garcia on May 7, 2001.

UCSB NAMED TEAM OF THE WEEK: After sweeping a Big West series at fourth-ranked Long Beach State, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos was honored as the CollegeBaseballInsider.com team of the week for games played April 26-May 2. The Gauchos (27-17) defeated the 49ers 8-4 on Friday, 6-2 on Saturday and outlasted LBSU 5-4 in 10 innings on Sunday.

GAUCHOS AGAINST THE NATION: UCSB has only committed 47 errors in 47 games so far this season. The Gauchos team fielding percentage of .975 is good for fourth best in the entire nation. Offensively the Gauchos are also turning heads around the country. UCSB's Nate Sutton is helping to lead the Gauchos' offensive charge with 1.34 runs scored per game, the sixth best mark in Division 1 NCAA baseball.

ACCORDING TO BOYD: Boyd's World, a college baseball website featuring alternative statistics and rankings to the mainstream polls, lists UCSB as the 35th 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 66th with a .541 "pseudo-RPI" ranking.

GAUCHOS FEATURED IN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: In the Thursday, May 6, 2004, edition of Sports Illustrated, UCSB and second baseman Chris Malec were noted for sweeping then No. 4 Long Beach State the previous weekend. On Friday, April 30, the Gauchos handed highly touted starting pitcher Jered Weaver his first no-decision en route to their 8-4 victory. Also featured in the magazine was former Gaucho infielder Michael Young, who is currently one of the American Leagues' biggest offensive threats as the Texas Rangers' new shortstop.

WILD FINISHES: Santa Barbara has outscored its opponents 391-256 so far this season. More notably, in the final three innings of games UCSB is outscoring opponents 123-64, nearly doubling the oppositions totals. Perhaps that is why 16 of the Gauchos' 30 wins have behind of the come-from-behind variety.

A TRIO OF RELIEF: UCSB's top three relievers, Alex McRobbie, Loren Fraser and Ivan Ramirez have combined to post a combined 2.09 season ERA. The three are 7-2 and have allowed just 26 earned runs in 112.2 innings pitched. In Big West play, the trio has allowed just five earned runs over 48 conference innings, good for a 0.94 Big West ERA. Against Long Beach State from April 30-May 2, the three combined for 10.2 scoreless relief innings while picking up a win and two saves.

CAUTION... RECORDS FALLING: 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... RECORDS FALLING, PART 2: 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. On Friday, May 7, UCSB set another record when the Gauchos stranded 19 runners on base against Cal State Northridge. The previous record was 18 set in 2003.

STEADY IMPROVEMENT: In its 16-4 victory over Westmont College on April 14, UCSB surpassed its total run output from 2003 as the Gauchos scored 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 391 runs scored and 352 team RBI after 47 games. Santa Barbara has also been collecting bases on balls at a torrid pace. The team's 234 walks is nearly one hundred more than the 2003 Gauchos had.

MELTDOWN ON THE MOUND: 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).

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.

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 second on the squad with a .335 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 47 games this season, Valaika has only made 11 errors at shortstop, good for a .958 fielding percentage. He also leads the Big West in assists with 170.

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 broke for a new state-of-the-art clubhouse for UCSB baseball.