Gaucho baseball will host a three-game series against Long Beach State starting Friday, with games two and three set for Saturday and Sunday. Probable starters for the weekend series are Cory Lewis, Mike Gutierrez and Ryan Gallagher.
Following the series against Long Beach State, UCSB will travel to Los Angeles to play USC.
The Gauchos are atop the Big West Conference in several stat categories already this season, including team ERA (3.92), home runs (44), homers per game (1.33), on-base percentage (.380), slugging percentage (.462), stolen bases (52), stolen bases per game (1.58), strikeouts per nine innings (10) and win percentage (.727).
The Gauchos are ranked No. 13 by Collegiate Baseball and are receiving votes in the NCBWA and USA Today Coaches polls. They are also 47th in NCAA RPI.
Christian Kirtley has reached base safely in 21 straight games, Bryce Willits has in 19, Kyle Johnson has in 15, John Neman Jr has in 11 and Broc Mortensen has in 10. Johnson and Kirtley lead the team with 11 multi-hit games already this season. Mortensen leads the way with 10 multi-RBI games
Now that third baseman Willits has officially played in 66.6% of his team’s contests, the Big West is recognizing his impressive offensive stat lines. He leads the league with a 1.192 OPS and a .716 slugging percentage, and is third with a .476 OBP and fourth with a .373 batting average.
The Gauchos’ starting shortstop, Jordan Sprinkle is back at it again on the basepaths this year, leading the Big West Conference with 17 stolen bases, which ranks 45th in the nation. Getting into scoring position has helped him touch home plate for 25 runs this season which ranks 8th in conference.
USA Baseball announced its Golden Spikes Award midseason watchlist on April 5, naming Sprinkle, a sophomore, to its ranks. The award is given annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country for the 2022 season.
First baseman Kyle Johnson, known around the dugout as The Body, has been using that big frame on the offensive end this year. He has been one of the best and most consistent bats in the Gaucho lineup this year, showing enormous growth in being patient and having great at-bats. He currently ranks third in the Big West with 24 walks this season and is ninth with 11 doubles. He also ranks in the top-20 in OBP, OPS, hits, and RBI.
The Gauchos bats have been getting going quickly this year, and when they do UCSB has a lot of success, currently boasting a 16-5 record when scoring first. So far this season the team has outscored its opponents 20-12 in the first inning and is 7-4 when it does score in that first frame. The Gauchos are also an undefeated 21-0 this season when outhitting their opponents.
Sophomore slinger Ryan Harvey has found his niche after moving from the weekend rotation into the bullpen and becoming a true closer for the Gauchos. The righty currently leads the Big West and has the 7th most saves in the country with nine already to this point.
Sophomore righty Cory Lewis has been tough this season, sliding into the role of the Friday starter for UCSB. He currently ranks second with 63 strikeouts and is fourth with a 12.06 strikeouts per nine innings average having tallied four 10+ K outings already this season. Both of his K marks are good for top-50 in the nation. He is also seventh in the Big West with a 3.45 ERA, second with five wins, and fourth with a 6.32 hits allowed per nine innings average.
For the first time in his career, Lewis was named Big West Pitcher of the Week in the Gauchos’ home opening series against Nevada and did not disappoint, as the sophomore earned the win after pitching six full hitless, scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, tying his career high. Scattering four walks, the Southern California native improved to an impressive ERA of 1.69 on the season.
Mortensen is back in right field doing the two things he is the absolute best at: hitting homers and racking up HBP. The reigning home run champ is tied for the conference lead with nine homers and ranks third with 11 HBP already this season. He is also second with 31 RBI.
A great outing at CSUN earned freshman Ryan Gallagher his first career Big West Pitcher of the Week award. The rookie righty was on fire in his Sunday start tossing eight full innings, which is the longest outing of his young career so far. He allowed just one earned run that crossed on a wild pitch as the Gauchos topped the Matadors 7-1 and Gallagher improved to 3-0 on the season. He scattered four hits and four walks in the eight frames while striking out five.
Daniel Moebus-Bowles writes about sports for UCSB.