Baseball Preview: UCSB

Cal State Fullerton went into last week playing some of their best baseball of the season after winning eight of their previous ten games. The Titans played their best baseball of the season last week by beating #3 UCLA 6-1 last Tuesday and following that up by winning two out of three games at #18 UC Irvine (4-7, 6-3, 6-1)in a pivotal Big West series.

Fullerton didn’t put up the big numbers against the good pitching staffs of the Bruins and the Anteaters that they did against UC Davis but they did come out swinging at UCLA with three first inning HR’s and got several clutch two out hits against Irvine in the final two games of the series.

Leading a balanced attack at the plate for Fullerton was Big West player of the week Nick Ramirez with three HR’s and six RBI’s. The Titans received some strong pitching with a 2.29 ERA for the week and the leaders were Daniel Renken (6 1/3 IP, 3 R, 1 ER) on Saturday, Tyler Pill (8 1/3 IP, 1 R, 0 ER) on Sunday and Dylan Floro with 4 2/3 scoreless innings and one save in two relief appearances.

Fullerton has now won 11 out of 14 games and gone 13-2 over the last five weekends and the Titans are looking to carry that momentum into their series up the coast in Goleta with the UCSB Gauchos.

UCSB (14-12, 2-1) almost qualified for a regional in 2008 and was one of the last teams left out of the field after finishing tied for 3rd in the Big West and expected to be playing in a regional last year with some veteran hitters and a strong pitching staff returning.

The Gauchos got off to a solid 14-5 start but started playing poorly due to their pitching not performing well during the Big West season and ended up a disappointing 28-23, 11-13 and tied for 5th. UCSB lost their Friday SP and 7 of the 11 hitters who had 100+ AB’s in 2009 so the expectations going into this season weren’t too high with the Gauchos predicted to finish 6th in the Big West and the results have been pretty average.

UCSB lost series at San Jose State, Stanford and Sacramento State and at home to New Mexico State (all 1-2 series losses) with their only series wins coming at home against Northern Illinois (4-0) and San Francisco (2-1) and at Cal Poly (2-1) in their first Big West series last weekend.

OUTLOOK

Fullerton goes into the series at UCSB looking like they are the better team.  The Titans offense has been better than the Gauchos, their pitching has been better and their fielding has been better.  But, UCSB has improved over the last three weeks and has won six of their last ten games with the offense starting to heat up and the starting pitching starting to gel.

Fullerton’s pitching staff matches up well with the UCSB lineup being almost entirely comprised of RH hitters.  The Gauchos are going to have to figure out how to generate some offense against the RHP heavy Fullerton rotation.  The front of UCSB’s rotation matches up well on Friday and Saturday with LHP’s going against the LH hitting middle of the Fullerton lineup.  Those are the key areas to watch this weekend. 

This doesn’t figure to be a one sided series because UCSB is looking to make a statement that they can be a contender in the conference race.  Although Fullerton has not lost a series at UCSB since 1985, the last three series up there have been closely contested with the Titans coming out of Goleta winning two out of three games each time.

Fullerton is going to have to play with the intensity both at the plate and on the mound that they showed last weekend at Irvine to win this series.  If the Titans take them lightly the Gauchos do have the starting pitching and could generate enough offense to steal this series.  If Fullerton does come out focused and ready to play they should win this series.