UCSB baseball (15-3, 3-0 Big West) will look to keep their perfect start to conference play rolling this weekend, as they welcome the upstart CSUN Matadors (12-4, 2-1 Big West) to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for a three-game series. After sweeping their opening series last weekend, the Gauchos come into this weekend atop The Big West standings, with the Matadors in third, as CSUN has enjoyed a strong start to their season as well.
This weekend, the UCSB Athletic Department is offering a Spring Break Special with students of all ages receiving free admission to every game of this series. First pitch times are set for 5:05 p.m. today, 4:05 p.m. Saturday, and 1:05 p.m. Sunday. The games will be live on ESPN+ with an audio-only broadcast and live stats both available through ucsbgauchos.com.
LAST TIME OUT
Playing their first Big West games of the season last weekend, the Gauchos got the start they wanted to conference play, sweeping a three-game series against CSU Bakersfield. Mike Gutierrez pitched seven excellent innings to help UCSB take a 5-0 victory in the Friday opener, Christian Kirtley drove in three runs to power Saturday’s 4-2 win, and Ivan Brethowr completed a Sunday comeback with a walk-off single as the Gauchos turned a 3-0 deficit into a 5-4 win.
The Matadors are one of UCSB’s most frequent opponents ever, with the two teams facing off a total of 158 times prior to this weekend. The Gauchos hold a 92-63-3 record against CSUN, and have won six of the last seven games, including a three-game series sweep in Northridge last April. UCSB has won each of the last three series (the 2020 series was cancelled due to COVID-19).
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE GAUCHOS
UCSB has one of the most electric offenses in The Big West and one of the best pitching staffs in the country. The Gauchos’ 2.64 team ERA is the fifth-best in all of Division I baseball, and the best of any mid-major program in the country. UCSB also ranks ninth nationally in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.39) and WHIP (1.10). Gaucho pitching also leads The Big West in total strikeouts (193), batting average against (.207) and home runs allowed (7).
When it comes to getting run support for their dominant pitchers, the UCSB offense relies on speed and power, leading The Big West in stolen bases (35) and home runs (27). Eight different Gauchos have multiple steals on the season, and seven have multiple home runs. LeTrey McCollum’s team-high seven stolen bases are also the second-most in The Big West, and Ivan Brethowr’s six home runs lead the team and conference. Aaron Parker is right behind Brethowr with five long balls, and he leads the team in both slugging (.690) and on-base percentage (.439) at this point in the season. His .362 average is behind only Jonah Sebring’s .371 for the team lead.
SCOUTING THE MATADORS
CSUN has exceeded expectations to start the season. After being picked to finish seventh in The Big West Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Matadors come into the weekend in third place in the conference standings and with the second-best overall record to this point in the season. The Matadors opened Big West play against UC Davis last weekend, taking two of three games from the Aggies in Davis. That series was sandwiched between a pair of mid-week games against Pepperdine, both of which CSUN won, making them 4-1 in their last five games.
Lucas Braun worked eight innings in the Matadors’ Friday game in Davis; the All-Big West Preseason Team selection has been an absolute standout for CSUN so far this year, leading the conference and ranking 15th in the country in strikeouts with 41 in 30 1/3 innings of work this season.
At the plate, the Matadors are led by outfielder Jakob Simons and catcher Graysen Tarlow, who rank first and second in The Big West in on-base plus slugging percent (OPS) this season. Along with his 1.239 OPS, Simons is tied for second in the conference with five home runs and has the best outright slugging percentage (.719). He also leads the conference in stolen bases with nine, and will get on base any way he can, including a conference-high eight hit-by-pitches. Tarlow took home the first Big West Player of the Week award of the season and has not slowed down, leading the conference in on-base percentage (.538) and ranking second in batting average, hitting .420 through his first 15 games.
UCSB will hit the road next week, heading to Moraga for a game against St. Mary’s on Tuesday, then to Fresno for a weekend series against Fresno State. Tuesday’s game is set for a 2 p.m. start, with the games in Fresno set for 6 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Eric Boose is assistant director of athletic communications at UCSB.