UCSB Preview: Lineup

UCSB lost four very good players from last year who were a big reason why the Gauchos had one of the best offenses in the Big West but also returned quite a few players who started or were part-time players and they once again have one of the better offenses in the conference.

Although UCSB is only in the middle of the pack with a .301 team BA, the Gauchos are hitting .322 in Big West games and they are 2nd in the conf in scoring and average about 8 RPG and have scored 6+ runs in 25 games.  UCSB is also 2nd in SLG% (.481) and leads the Big West with 142 extra base hits.  The Gauchos weren't expected to hit for as much power as they did last when they hit 55 HR's due to losing HR hitter Mike Zuanich but they have already hit 40 HR's.  UCSB's relatively soft schedule compared to some of the other contenders in the Big West and a ballpark that favors hitters, especially when the weather warms up, have contributed to UCSB's scoring but there is no mistaking the fact that the Gauchos are a good offensive ball club.  UCSB has several patient hitters and is 2nd in the conf in drawing BB's and will swing for the fences, ranking in the middle of the conference in strikeouts.  The Gauchos will run when the opportunity presents itself and are usually successful, going 48-61, and will bunt with the hitters at the top and bottom of the lineup (only 23 SAC's for the season but 12 in Big West games) and swing away with the power hitters in the middle.

UCSB was playing better defense earlier in the season but has struggled in conf play, making 18 E's for a .961 fielding %.  The Gauchos have players at 2B, SS and 3B who all have experience playing SS so they should be better defensively, although the rough infield surface at UCSB has contributed to some of the errors with bad hops and unpredictable bounces.  Those positions have combined to make 24 errors.  UCSB has good speed at all three OF positions and they will usually get to balls hit into the gaps and most of their OF's have good arms so it could be tough for Fullerton to try to take extra bases.  Their catchers have been good at blocking pitches and have allowed 32 WP's/PB's (2nd in the conf) and 3rd in the conf at stopping the running game (28-48 SB's) so the Titans might have trouble running on UCSB.

Infield

C – JC transfer Marty Mullins (RH – .304-3-15-4) has stepped in for three year starter Chris McMurray and the Gauchos haven't skipped a beat with Mullins behind the plate.  He has been hot in Big West games and hit .405 with a .595 SLG %.  UCSB has a deep lineup because they have been able to have Mullins hit 7th or 8th despite that type of production.  Mullins is not that patient at the plate with only 8 BB's.  He has done a good job against baserunners (17-33 SB's).

1B – SR Eric Oliver (RH – .311-6-38-1) was a productive hitter last year when he led the team and was 5th in the conf in R's (2008 – .315-5-35-1) but got off to a slow start.  Oliver has hit 3rd in every game and has been red hot lately, hitting .364 with 21 RBI's in his last 17 games, including .413 in conf games, and he is 3rd in the conf in RBI's and 2nd on the team with a .530 SLG %.   He has outstanding plate discipline with 19 BB's (6th in the conf) and only 7 K's and is one of the tougher hitters to strike out in the Big West.  Oliver has also done a very good job defensively.  He was 3-10 with a HR against Fullerton last season.

2B – JR Matt Valaika (RH – .321-4-33-1) was the starting 2B two years ago and played SS last season before getting hurt early in the year and missed the rest of the season (.333 in 17 games).  Valaika usually hits 5th and has good power for a middle infielder with a .507 SLG % and has hit HR's the last two games.  He is on a nine game hitting streak.  Valaika is not very patient at the plate with only 5 BB's but makes good contact and has only 13 K's.  He has done a solid job defensively and has good range.  Valaika is 3-10 with a HR and 4 RBI's in his career against Fullerton.

SS – SR Shane Carlson (RH - .256-5-25-1) is in his 4th year as a starter and was 2nd team all Big West last season (2008 – .349-6-53-1) when he was 7th in the conf in RBI's.  He got off to a slow start and was injured earlier in the year and when he returned to the lineup he was the DH for several weeks.  Carlson returned to SS a couple of weeks ago and has hit better lately, going 7-15 last week with 7 RBI's.  He was hitting in the middle of the lineup earlier in the year but has been hitting 7th or 8th recently.  Carlson has struggled some defensively this season but has been playing better as he has gotten healthier.  He has hit well against Fullerton in his career, going 12-29 with a HR and had a five hit game against the Titans last season.

3B – JR Ryan Cavan (Both - .357-2-24-3) was red hot earlier in the season and helped to carry the offense while others were struggling when he hit over .400 in non-conf games but Cavan has struggled since conf play started and has hit only .244.  Cavan was playing SS while Carlson was out of the lineup and playing DH but has been playing 3B lately.  He was hitting 2nd most of the time earlier in the year but has been hitting in the middle of the lineup recently with a .516 SLG % for the season.  Cavan is very patient at the plate and is 2nd in the conf with 24 BB's and has been making solid contact with only 16 K's.  He has good range at 3B but has been struggling defensively and has made 9 E's, including three last Sunday against Cal Poly.

Outfield/DH

LF – JR Gunnar Terhune (RH – .311-0-21-8) was a part-time player most of the last two seasons (2008 – .336-0-12-5) before getting hot during Big West play last year when he hit .400.  Terhune was batting 9th most of the time earlier in the season but he has been hot since being moved into the leadoff spot a month ago with hits in 18 of 22 games.  He is a scrappy player with good speed who doesn't walk much for a leadoff hitter and was a 2B before being moved to LF this season to get his bat into the lineup and take over for Zuanich.  Terhune is a good bunter and is 2nd on the team with 6 SAC's.  He is 1-9 in his career against Fullerton.

CF – SR Brian Gump (LH - .343-6-31-19) was the leadoff hitter much of the past two seasons before being moved to the 2nd spot in the lineup a month ago.  Gump is the guy who makes the UCSB offense go with a .443 OBP, 41 R's (3rd in the conf) and 19 SB's (2nd in the conf).  He also has lots of pop in his bat and leads the team with a .531 SLG %.  Gump has been scorching during Big West games with a .435 BA and had a 14 game hitting streak snapped last Sunday against Cal Poly.   He is also a good bunter and leads the team with 7 SAC's.  Gump is patient at the plate with 22 BB's (6th in the conf) but can struggle with making contact (23 K's this season and 52 K's in 2008).  He has very good range in CF and a strong arm.  Gump has not hit well against Fullerton and is 2-17 in his career against the Titans.

RF – Soph Mark Haddow (RH – .253-3-15-8) is one of the better all around athletes on the team but has struggled in his first chance at extended playing time after being a reserve last season (2008 – .231 in 52 AB's).  Haddow has struck out about 1/3 of the time and he has started to lose some playing time to SR John De Alba (LH - .314-2-11-1), who has hits in 13 of his last 15 games and has hit .333 in Big West games.  Another option in RF is JC transfer Ryan Tregoning (RH – .326 in 46 AB's), who is a good athlete and one of the faster runners on the team.  Whoever is in RF will usually hit in the lower part of the lineup. 

DH – UCSB has used a bunch of players in this spot, including their two Haddow and DeAlba.  Two other players who could see time here are Steve Cook (RH – .263-0-9-2) and Robby Cummings (RH – .274-6-33-1).  Cummings was a regular in the lineup at 3B earlier in the year when Carlson was injured/playing DH but has played less lately as his bat has cooled off and is only 3-22 in Big West games.  The DH will usually hit in the lower part of the lineup.