The UCSB baseball team opened its home schedule with a bang this weekend, taking two of three games from Santa Clara.
The Gauchos offense returned with a vengeance in the first two games of the series, as UCSB (3-4) defeated the Broncos, 14-5 and 10-3. Santa Barbara came up one run short in the series finale, dropping the contest 6-5.
Despite winning the series, Santa Barbara felt that it still has room for improvement.
“I don’t think that we’ve played up to how good we can be,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “For the most part we played well, but we couldn’t seem to get that extra hit when we needed it.”
The Gauchos fell behind early in game one on Friday, with Santa Clara scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. Junior designated hitter Jed Stringham led the way for UCSB in the bottom of the inning, bombing a two-run homer off Broncos southpaw Matt Travis en route to five Gaucho runs.
Santa Barbara then exploded for five more runs in the sixth inning before Stringham blasted his second-round tripper of the game in the seventh. UCSB then finished its scoring with one last run in the eighth.
Overshadowed by the offensive explosion was senior pitcher Rylie Ogle, who turned in his best performance of the young season. Ogle gave up only three runs in 5.1 innings of work while striking out two batters.
“We were just trying to erase the memory of the UCLA game this weekend,” senior third baseman Dave Molidor said. “We know that we can win and we came out in the first game and proved that we can put teams away.”
The Gauchos jumped all over Santa Clara in game two, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first and chasing Broncos starting pitcher Kellon McConnell from the game after only one-third of an inning.
UCSB would not score again until the sixth inning, but with sophomore pitcher Jim Bullard dominating Santa Clara, it appeared that three runs would be all Santa Barbara would need. Bullard pitched six strong innings, giving up only seven hits and two earned runs.
“I just tried to throw strikes and get ahead,” Bullard said. “I just wanted to keep us in the ballgame and get us a win.”
With the score tied at three heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Gauchos offense put three runs on the board, giving UCSB a lead that it would only add to before the game was finished.
Senior reliever Jamie Gonzales closed out the Broncos in the final three innings, surrendering only one hit and zero runs.
Santa Barbara was looking for the sweep on Sunday, but Santa Clara blazed ahead early, scoring three runs in the top of the second. The Gauchos pulled within one in the fourth inning when junior left-fielder Andy Campanella singled, driving in Molidor and senior shortstop Jeff Bannon. UCSB could not get any closer than that, missing out on multiple opportunities to take the lead, but senior pinch hitter Mike Kolbach grounded out to end the game with Molidor on third base.
The Gauchos will now prepare for a home game against cross-town rival Westmont. Bullard said that winning this series will be helpful in future games.
“I think the entire team made big strides this weekend, especially on the mound,” Bullard said. “Overall I think we played really well.”