UCSB Preview: Pitching

The pitching staff for UCSB was expected to be one of the strengths of the team, especially the starting rotation with three pitchers who were all projected to go in the first ten rounds of the draft in June.

The Gauchos have been getting good starts out of their Friday SP but they have been getting inconsistent outings out of their Saturday SP and their SP situation on Sundays has been a mess, resulting in UCSB losing the last game in each of the last five series.  UCSB's bullpen was a weakness last season and one of the main reasons why the Gauchos failed to make it into the post-season and the results for the relievers have been inconsistent once again.  After pitching pretty well in non-conf games while getting off to a good start, the wheels have fallen off during conf play and UCSB comes into this series with a 7.03 ERA in Big West games.  UCSB is allowing hitters to hit .282, which is solid and 3rd in the conference, but the Gauchos are only 7th in the conf in BB's and lead the conf in HBP's.  

Starters

Fri SP – JC transfer Joe Gardner (RHP – 6-0, 3.51 ERA, 10 starts, 67 IP, 65 H, 26 BB, 60 K, .280 BA, 3 HR) is tall and intimidating on the mound and has good command of an 89-92 mph fastball and locates his fastball down in the zone and gets excellent movement on a heavy, two-seam sinker to get lots of ground balls.  His slider is effective and his changeup is solid.  Gardner pitched very well in the Alaskan League last summer and has carried that over to this spring, when he figures to go in the first ten rounds in the draft in June.  UCSB has a great deal of confidence when Gardner is on the mound and is 9-1 in his starts.  He has been a workhorse and threw 139 pitches in a CG 6-5 win last week against Cal Poly.  Gardner was very effective in his first four starts with a 1.50 ERA and 22 H in 30 IP but the workload has started to catch up to him and he has a 5.29 ERA in his last five starts with 42 H in 34 IP and a 5.79 ERA in four conf starts.  He has sometimes struggled with being wild and is 2nd in the conf with 16 HBP's.  Gardner has been very tough to run on and allowed only 1-7 SB's.  

Sat SP – Mario Hollands (LHP – 4-4, 4.45 ERA, 9 starts, 61 IP, 62 H, 26 BB, 35 K, .284 BA, 4 HR) was the Big West FR pitcher of the year last season (2008 – 7-3, 4.03 ERA, 83 IP, 89 H, 26 BB, 61 K, .276 BA, 3 HR) but he has been inconsistent this year.  He has alternated between being dominant when he threw 17 shutout innings in his first and third starts against Bakersfield and LMU and allowing 6 R's in each his starts against Minnesota and St. Mary's after those two shutouts.  Hollands has not thrown well the last two weeks, allowing 9 R on 18 H and 8 BB in 11 2/3 IP.  He is a tall and athletic pitcher with a deceptive delivery and throws strikes with a quality three-pitch mix, including an 87-89 mph fastball, good curveball and changeup to get lots of groundouts and is also projected to in the first ten rounds of the draft in June.  Hollands has a very good pickoff move and is 2nd in the conf with 4 pickoffs but because of his delivery to the plate, when runners have been able to pick up when he is going to the plate they have been successful (7-10 SB's).  He was dominant in his start against Fullerton last year, throwing a CG and allowing only 2 R on 4 H.

Sun SP – SR Zach Samuels (RHP – 2-2, 5.24 ERA, 2 saves, 14 apps, 3 starts, 34 IP, 35 H, 17 BB, 31 K, .261 BA, 3 HR) was moved into the rotation two weeks ago due to the season long problems that JR Mike Ford (RHP – 4-3, 5.21 ERA, 12 apps, 8 starts, 48 IP, 52 H, 24 BB, 23 K, .277 BA, 8 HR) has had.  Samuels has pitched out of the bullpen in his two seasons at UCSB (2008 – 2-3, 7.01 ERA, 20 apps, 26 IP) and was pitching effectively before conf play started but like most of the pitchers he has struggled in Big West games, allowing 14 R's in 11 IP.  He allowed 3 R in 5 1/3 IP against San Jose State and 6 R in 4 IP against Cal Poly in his two starts.  Like most RHP's at UCSB over the years, Samuels relies on a sinker to get ground balls in order to be successful.  

Ford was 2nd team all conference last season (2008 – 6-4, 2.96 ERA, 94 IP, 78 H, 37 BB, 76 K, .227 BA, 7 HR) and was another SP who was projected to go in the first ten rounds of the draft in June.  His fastball normally sat in the low 90's his first two seasons with a split-finger pitch he used to get strikeouts but this year due to some issues with his mechanics Ford's fastball has been sitting more in the mid 80's and batters have usually teed off.  Ford allowed 10 R's in 6 2/3 IP in his last two starts against Pacific and UC Davis before being moved to the bullpen.  He has been more effective recently as a reliever, allowing 0 R and 1 H in 5 1/3 IP in two apps against San Jose State and Cal Poly.  Ford has allowed 10 R's in 13 IP in his two starts against Fullerton but pitched well against the Titans last year, holding Fullerton to 1 R in 7 IP before tiring in the 8th.

Relievers

JC transfer David Meals (RHP – 2-2, 5.57 ERA, 4 saves, 15 apps, 1 start, 32 IP, 32 H, 15 BB, 25 K, .278 BA, 4 HR) has been the closer for most of the season and was effective earlier in the year but has also had his problems in conf games, allowing 9 R in 7 IP in four apps including 6 R in 2 IP at Northridge when he came in to protect a 4-3 lead.  Meals is another pitcher who relies on a sinker to get ground balls but has been getting the ball up and struggling with his control.  The coaching staff has lost some confidence in Meals and did not bring him into either one run game with Cal Poly last week.  Ford looks like he would be the most likely choice to come into a game in a save situation because Meals started Wed against Bakersfield and allowed 7 R in 5 IP.

The midweek SP has been Soph Jesse Meaux (RHP – 3-0, 5.92 ERA, 14 apps, 6 starts, 38 IP, 47 H, 17 BB, 27 K, .309 BA, 4 HR), who pitched in middle relief against Cal Poly (2 apps, 3 IP, 3 R, 5 H) and Bakersfield (2 IP, 1 R).  The other pitchers in the bullpen are Soph Greg Davis (RHP – 1-1, 3.06 ERA, 10 apps, 18 IP, 14 H, 12 BB, 11 K, .222 BA, 0 HR), who had been pitching well in allowing only 1 R in 14 IP despite 9 BB's before Cal Poly scored 5 R in 1 2/3 IP; SR Patrick McIntyre (RHP – 0-0, 6.14 ERA, 13 apps, 15 IP, 20 H, 2 BB, 10 K, .317 BA, 5 HR); and JR Clayton Edwards (RHP – 1-2, 7.61 ERA, 14 apps, 24 IP, 34 H, 7 BB, 17 K, .351 BA, 2 HR), who is 4th in the conf with 13 HBP's despite only pitching 24 innings.  UCSB does not have any LHP's in their bullpen.