UCSB second baseman Marcos Castanon made it clear before the season what one of his personal goals is this year: “I want to hit 21 home runs,” he said.
That would eclipse the 20 that Austin Bush slugged back in 2017 to set the program record. While it may seem like a lofty goal, Castanon has the talent to do it, and he’s off to a good start.
Castanon launched his second home run of the season in the third inning and singled home a run in the sixth to help lead UCSB to a 7-0 victory over Abilene Christian on Friday night in the start of a three-game series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Castanon’s towering shot to left was a three-run homer that got the Gauchos (4-1) on the scoreboard.
He hit a slider off Wildcats starter Austin Wagner.
“The previous at-bat, I had swung over some good fastballs,” Castanon said. “I was just telling myself this time that if I see a slider up, just put a good swing on it.
“He threw it and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Castanon, like the rest of his teammates, played their second game under the brand new lights at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium after Monday night’s contest against Cal.
Castanon loved what he saw with the lights shining brightly.
“The lights make the ball shine pretty big,” he said. “It’s really fun. It’s a good atmosphere and the lights just make the ball really bright. There’s something about night games, I’ve always been a fan of them.”
Castanon might have been seeing the ball well, as he finished with three hits and four runs batted in, but Abilene Christian batters weren’t so lucky against UCSB starter Rodney Boone and relievers Connor Roberts and Josh Candau.
Boone was terrific, going 5.2 innings and allowing three hits with eight strikeouts and three walks. It was a nice bounce-back effort by the sophomore lefty after he suffered his first loss as a Gaucho last weekend at Sacramento State.
“I felt pretty good. I felt like I made progress from last week,” Boone said. “I just want to keep getting better each week.”
Boone only lasted three innings against Sac State. He allowed four runs with five strikeouts and four walks. On Friday night, he was the pitcher who resembled the one last season who went 8-0 as a freshman.
“I have a tendency to get too fine sometimes,” Boone said. “I just wanted to be on the attack at all times tonight. I had that third inning where I walked a couple of guys, and that was an example of what I’m trying not to do right now.”
Roberts, who was spectacular last Saturday in Sacramento with five scoreless innings of relief, tossed another 2.1 innings during which he did not allow a run. Roberts only gave up one hit and had two strikeouts.
Candau pitched a scoreless ninth after tossing 1.1 scoreless innings last weekend. He, too, had two strikeouts. Boone earned the win to get to 1-1.
“The first two innings, Rod was good,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts said. “It was good, and some timely hitting there and a big swing by Marcos, plus we had really good defense and solid long relief (by Roberts).”
Abilene Christian did itself no favors by committing five errors.
Gaucho junior shortstop McClain O’Connor capped the scoring with his first home run of the season in the eighth inning. It was a two-run shot off Wildcats reliever Austin Glaze.
The three-game series continues today with Game 2 scheduled for 4 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.