Gauchos Hit the Road to Play USC, UC Davis This Week

Gauchos Hit the Road to Play USC, UC Davis This Week

May 15, 2007

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The Schedule
Games No. 47-50
Wednesday, May 16 - 6:00 p.m. (PDT)
UC Santa Barbara at USC
Dedeaux Field (2,500)

Friday, May 18 - 2:00 p.m. (PDT)
Saturday, May 19 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
Sunday, May 20 - 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis
Dobbins Baseball Complex (3,500)

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara enters its final road trip of the season with an overall record of 21-25 and a Big West mark of 9-9. After taking two out of three at Cal State Fullerton May 4-6, UCSB lost three straight to conference-leading and 16th-ranked Long Beach State over the weekend. The Gauchos, who moved into third place in the league standings following the series with the Titans, now find themselves in the sixth spot, a half game behind Cal Poly and CSF at 8-7, with one Big West series remaining.

What's On Tap
The Gauchos will take a break from conference play this week for a single contest against USC Wednesday and a three-game set with future Big West member UC Davis beginning Friday. The Trojans have an overall record of 24-23 and improved to 7-10 in the Pac-10 Conference following a 7-5 victory over No. 15 Arizona on Sunday. They are currently eighth in the league standings. Junior outfielder Roberto Lopez leads the squad batting .328 in 26 games, while left fielder Lucas Duda has belted a team-high six home runs and driven in 30 to go with a slugging percentage of .475. On the mound, freshman right-hander Brad Boxberger has a record of 3-5, but has allowed just 25 earned runs in 77.2 innings of work for a team-best 2.90 ERA and 68 strikeouts. Sophomore Ryan Cook is 7-2 with an earned run average of 4.50, 48 Ks and 26 walks in 13 appearances. The Gauchos will host the Trojans May 23 in their final non-conference match-up of the season.

The Aggies, who will officially join the Big West in 2007-08, own an overall mark of 20-28 after suffering a series sweep at the hands of Cal Poly over the weekend. Junior third baseman Daniel Descalso has started all 48 games for UC Davis and leads the team with a .408 batting average, four homers, 42 RBI, 47 runs, 20 doubles, and three triples in 2007. Senior right fielder Aaron Hanke is hitting .335 for the year with four round trippers, 33 runs batted in, 39 runs, and team-leading eight stolen bases. Sophomore righty Brad McAtee has proven to be the Aggies' ace this season, with a record of 4-3 in 13 appearances, an ERA of 4.28, and 50 strikeouts in 75.2 innings -- all team highs.

A Series to Forget
Long Beach State scored twice in the top of the first and never looked back, taking the series opener 8-3 last Friday. Dirtbag starting pitcher Manny McElroy allowed just two runs on nine hits through seven innings, while Gaucho starter Brian Tracy gave up six on five hits in 4.2. Santa Barbara got a solid start from Mike Ford Saturday as the freshman allowed four runs on eight hits before giving way to Steve Morlock with two outs and an 8-3 lead in the eighth. LBSU would score a run in that inning and then erupt for six more on six hits in the top of the ninth to claim a 10-8 game two win. Mike Zuanich went 2-for-5 with a pair of runs and two RBI for UCSB in the heart-breaking defeat. Things were just as bad on Sunday, as senior Jeff Braun held the Dirtbag offense to just one run on six hits through six and two thirds and handed a 3-1 lead to the bullpen in the seventh. Again Long Beach State was able to come from behind, getting a three-run homer by Jason Corder off reliever Justin Segal to tie the game at 4-4 and force extra innings. After neither team scored in the 10th, a Gaucho error on what would have been an inning-ending double play in the 11th resulted in the game-winning run. The Dirtbags then added seven more runs on a grand slam, a single shot and a two-run bomb to complete the series sweep.

The Rotation
Senior right-hander Bryan Fleming will get the nod for the first time this season Wednesday against USC. The native of Marin County, Calif. is 1-2 with an ERA of 8.77 in 15 appearances in 2007. Freshman Mike Ford will be on the hill Friday to kick off the UC Davis series. He'll be looking for his first win since April 21 against UC Irvine. The right-hander is 2-1 with an ERA of 5.84 and a team-high 62 strikeouts this season. Saturday's starting pitcher has yet to be determined, while senior lefty Jeff Braun, who has started a game in each of the last five series, will take the mound Sunday. He is 2-6 this season with an ERA of 5.89 and 39 strikeouts in 16 appearances.

Potential Starters - Notes
C/DH - Matt Anderson - Had two RBI in Sunday's game vs. Long Beach, his first in Big West play.
C - Chris McMurray - Has thrown out 43.0% of attempted base stealers.
1B - Robbie Blauer - Has collected hits in 43 of 46 games.
2B - Patrick Rose - Enters the week having hit in 13 consecutive games.
3B - Gunnar Terhune - Has 11 hits on the season, all singles.
SS - Shane Carlson - Is batting a season-high .255 on the year, .485 in the last 10 games.
LF - Mike Zuanich - Had two hits in each of the three games against Long Beach State.
CF - Chris Fox - Has an 18-game hitting streak, going 28-for-76 (.368) over that span.
RF - Mario Lewis - Tied for team-lead in home runs with six.
RF - Brian Gump - Has collected six hits in his last 14 at bats (.429).
DH - Cody Dee - Has had three three-hit games this season.
SP - Bryan Fleming - Scheduled to make his first start of the season on Wednesday at USC.
SP - Mike Ford - Struck out a career-high 10 batters on Saturday against Long Beach State.
SP - Jeff Braun - Has gone 5.0+ in five straight after having done so just once in first 11 games.
RP - Steve Morlock - Has saves in three of his last four appearances.
RP - Justin Segal - His 14 career saves ties him for third on UCSB's all-time list. Leaders have 16.

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 369-373-2 (.497). 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.

Valaika Out For Season
Freshman second baseman Matt Valaika suffered a fractured finger on his right hand when he was hit by a pitch on a bunt attempt on Saturday against Long Beach State. He will miss the remainder of the season. Valaika, who missed six games earlier with an injured collar bone, made 37 starts for the Gauchos. He completes his first season at UCSB with a .244 batting average, 27 RBI, eight doubles and a team-leading six home runs. Last week Valaika was named Easton/Big West Player of the Week after leading the Gauchos to a series victory at Cal State Fullerton.

Close, But Sometimes The Cigar
UCSB has been pretty good in close games this year. The Gauchos are 13-9 in games decided by one or two runs. They are 9-5 in one-run games. Of the 18 Big West Conference games played thus far, eight have been decided by one run and Santa Barbara is 5-3 in those games.

First baseman Robbie Blauer began the season by hitting in 23 straight games, extending a two-season streak to 24 in a row. Blauer is one of three Gauchos who will carry a lengthy hitting streak into Wednesday's game at USC. Junior center fielder Chris Fox enters the week with an 18-game hitting streak, Blauer has a 14-game streak and third baseman-turned-second baseman Patrick Rose has collected hits in 13 straight games. A third UCSB player, shortstop Shane Carlson, has a modest five-game streak.

Blauer Power
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 20 of the 22 games since the end of the streak, including the last 14 in a row. Overall this season, he has hits in 43 of 46 games. Clearly, Blauer has not gone into a tailspin. He leads the Gauchos and is second in the Big West Conference with a .396 batting average and a .482 on base percentage. While he is batting .396 on the year, Blauer has gone 22-of-55, .400, during his current 14-game hitting streak. In last weekend's series against Long Beach State, he had seven hits in 15 at bats, including a pair of three-hit games. Blauer collected a career-high four hits on March 4 against Kansas State. He has had three or more hits nine times this season and he has had 19 mutiple-hit games. Finally, in 225 plate appearances, the Huntington Beach, Calif., native has fanned just 10 times, or once every 22.5 times at the plate, the best mark on the team.

Junior center fielder Chris Fox enters Wednesday's game at USC with a .320 batting average. He also enters the series with the longest current hitting streak of any Gaucho. Fox has collected at least one hit in 18 consecutive games and in that time he has elevated his batting average from .284 to its current .320. In the 18 games, he has gone 28-of-76, .368. Also, in the last 18, Fox has walked nine times and been hit by a pitch, giving him an on base percentage of .441. Fox has two or more hits 14 times this season, including seven times during his current 18-game hitting streak. He has, however, collected exactly one hit in each of the last seven games. Fox is tied with Robbie Blauer for the team-lead in runs scored with 31 and he paces the team with 13 stolen bases, but he has not had a steal since April 21 against UC Irvine.

Ford Has A Better Idea
Freshman Mike Ford has been one of UCSB's most consistent pitchers this season. While he has just a 2-1 record and a 5.84 ERA, he has kept the Gauchos in most games. Ford enters the week tied for the team-lead with 11 starts and he is second in innings pitched at 69.1. He also paces the team with 62 strikeouts, 20 more than his next closest competitor. On Saturday against Long Beach State, Ford hurled 7.2 innings and allowed eight hits and three earned runs. He walked just one batter and whiffed a career-high 10. He has 31 strikeouts in his last four appearances, a span of 26.1 innings, and he is on-target to become the first freshman to lead UCSB in strikeouts since Barry Zito did so in 1997. Most impressively, perhaps, in a year when Gaucho pitchers are falling like flies, Ford has pitched at least 5.2 innings in eight of his 11 starts, including each of the last seven.

By Any Other Name
Junior Patrick Rose, who had become the Gauchos' regular third baseman with a stellar run over the past several weeks, will likely make the shift to second base because of Matt Valaika's hand injury. Whether at second or third, Rose has been on fire recently, hitting in 13 consecutive games. In the last 13, the Laguna Niguel, Calif., native has gone 21-for-55, .382, to improve his overall average to .296. Actually, since he bottomed-out at .190 after an 0-for-3 outing on April 5 at UC Riverside, Rose has improved his average by more than 100 points over 18 games by going 25-of-68, .367 In fact, in 18 Big West games, Rose is batting .351, second on the team to Robbie Blauer. His 27 hits in league games are the most of any Gaucho. Rose has a career-high three hits three times and overall, he has 13 multiple-hit games, including seven during his current 13-game hitting streak and 10 times during his 18-game surge.

Braun Is On
Like freshman Mike Ford, senior left hander Jeff Braun has been a huge positive for the UCSB pitching staff during Big West play. If the Gauchos awarded a comeback honor, Braun might be the right choice. After struggling through much of the pre-conference schedule, he was sent to the bullpen. Injuries forced the coaching staff to return Braun to the starting rotation. His first start back, on April 15 against Pacific, he was outstanding in a win and he has been a mainstay ever since. On Sunday, in a no-decision against Long Beach State, the lanky Braun had one of his best outings of the season. He tossed 6.2 innings and allowed just six hits, one run, one walk and he whiffed four Dirtbags. It was the fifth straight time since he returned to the rotation that he he has pitched at least 5.0 innings. In four of his last five starts, Braun has gone at least 6.0 innings and over that span he has pitched a total of 33.0 innings, gone 2-1 with an ERA of 4.36. On the year, he is 2-6 with a 5.89 ERA, but those numbers do not indicate his contributions in recent weeks.

Shane On You
Sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson has become a legitimate offensive threat as the 2007 season has progressed. He enters the week with a batting average of .255, but he has hit in five straight and eight of the last 10. After an 0-for-3 performance against UC Irvine on April 21, Carlson was batting just .185, but in the 10 games since he has been on fire, collecting 16 hits in 33 at bats, .485. Also in the 10 games, he has three doubles, two triples and four walks. His on base percentage is .541 and he has had four three-hit games. Carlson opened the season by going hitless in his first 15 at bats, but since then he has gone 36-of-126, .286.