Baseball Preview: UCSB

Cal State Fullerton went into last week trying to determine what direction their season was going to go in after losing the first two games of the Pacific series, which was the first time that the Titans have ever lost a series to the Tigers.

Fullerton gutted out a win in the final game against Pacific and went on a roll last week, winning six games in eight days with midweek wins against San Diego and Pepperdine and a weekend sweep of UC Davis in which the pitching staff allowed one run in three games. 

Despite not having a Big West championship in their sights, the Titans still have a great deal to play for with the potential for a national seed and hosting regionals and super regionals at Goodwin Field still realistic goals thanks to how well Fullerton played during the non-conference season.  The Titans took a step backwards on Wednesday night with a very poor performance in a 9-3 loss to USC and are looking to bounce back this weekend against the UC Santa Barbara.

UCSB (23-15, 6-6) brought an experienced team into this season and had expectations of challenging for the Big West title and qualifying for a regional for the first time since 2001 after narrowly missing out on post-season last year when they finished tied for 3rd with UC Irvine and UC Riverside.  UCSB started out 14-5, including a four game sweep of LMU, a 3-1 series win at St. Mary's and two wins in three games at Minnesota's tournament. 

However, once the Gauchos got into the conference season things changed, especially for the pitching staff.  UCSB allowed 24 runs when they lost their series at Cal State Northridge, rebounded to win two of three games in series with Pacific (despite allowing 27 R's) and UC Davis (the only conf game that the Aggies have won) and lost a non-conf series to San Jose State.  The Gauchos were looking to get back into the Big West race last weekend at home against Cal Poly and also lost that series when they allowed 21 runs in the final two games and their slump continued Tuesday when they lost at home to Cal State Bakersfield.  

OUTLOOK

This is a series between two teams that have been very inconsistent since conference play started and have not nearly played up to expectations.  Fullerton has only gone 11-8 in the last 19 games while UCSB has gone 9-10 in their last 19 games.  The Titans have often struggled with scoring runs since returning from their southern road trip and need to find a way to turn that around against a Gauchos pitching staff that has had trouble preventing teams from scoring runs in bunches. 

UCSB has a good offensive team but the Fullerton rotation is the best one that that they have faced this season.  With UCSB, you pretty much know what you are going to get, which is a team that will likely score their share of runs and will likely give up their share of runs.  With Fullerton, you usually know that you will get effective outings from the starting pitching but you don't know what you are going to get from the lineup (sometimes an explosion, sometimes only a couple of runs) or from the bullpen (sometimes effective, sometimes an implosion). 

This series will likely go as Fullerton's performance dictates it will and with the problems that UCSB has had with their pitching, despite the problems that the Titans have had at Goodwin Field this season (10-8 at home compared to 19-4 on the road) the likely result is that Fullerton will somehow find a way to win two out of three games in this series.