The crack of bats against leather. A late winter breeze floating through the field. The Slugs turning their heads to the sky, waiting to see their first homer.
These and other moments are soon to come as Slugs baseball season begins.
Conference baseball for UCSC starts on Feb. 22 with a three-game series on the road against UCLA. Right after the series against the Bruins, the team will travel to Nevada for a tournament.
The Slugs have played offseason games since September to prepare for a long and difficult months ahead of them.
“We work really hard three to four times a week so we can be physically and mentally prepared for the start of the season,” said sophomore pitcher Nick Settevendemie.
Both coaches, Patrick Mell and Dustin Miller, are expecting a better season than last year, when the team had an overall record of 11-13 and a conference record of 8-10. During the offseason, the Slugs worked on playing hard through all nine innings.
Their coaches said if the team is able to play through an entire game, they have the potential to play some great ball and be able to compete against tough teams like upcoming opponents UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
“We are confident and looking to win lots of games this season,” Mell said. “We’re coming off a great season — one of the best seasons this program had in the last five years. We have good experience from the returning players, who all have the mentality of a winning club. We are confident for the start of the season.”
Eleven new players were added to the 23-man team in the last tryouts. Ethan Bennett, third baseman and treasurer for the UCSC Baseball Club, noted that even though the team is a club rather than a NCAA team, they treat their games as though they were playing in the NCAA.
“The new players learned from the upperclassmen how the team works. They get a feel of what it’s like to play in a college environment,” Bennett said.
UCSC played the Bruins in the offseason, and despite the 3-2 loss, the Slugs know what it takes to defeat a tough UCLA team — the Bruins went 20-6 overall and 14-1 in the Southern Pacific-South Conference last year. On Feb. 16 the Bruins once again defeated their conference opponent UCSB, improving their record to 5-1 after losing a tight one to Cal Poly SLO, 4-2.
The Slugs will have the opportunity to earn revenge over both UCLA and Fullerton, after close losses to both teams in the fall.
“Playing against UCLA in a tournament in Fullerton, we know we can put up a good game against them,” Mell said. “We played them well in Fullerton in the offseason. I’ve told the team we have to be ready because UCLA practices really hard and they will be ready for us.”
This year the Southern Pacific-West will include two new teams, the UCLA Bruins and Stanford Cardinals, due to a new Division I conference giving the Southern Pacific a three-conference region. For Southern Pacific Conference teams, they will be able to play for an at-large bid for the Regional Tournament in May.