The Gaucho baseball team took its first game of a three-game series against Big West foe #22 Cal State Fullerton on Friday night, winning 5-3 behind left-handed junior Mario Hollands’ brilliant pitching performance over 8.2 innings. However, the Titans’ potent offensive lineup proved to be too much for UCSB in its 17-3 loss on Saturday and 6-1 loss on Sunday.
“Some days, you’ve just got to tip your caps,” centerfielder Gunnar Terhune said. “You get to realize how intense a team is and why they go to the College World Series. [Fullerton’s] gritty, nasty, aggressive. They get after each pitch and never give up.”
With the series loss, the Gauchos dropped to 16-14 overall with a 3-3 record in the Big West, while Fullerton improved to 20-13 overall and 7-2 in conference play.
On Sunday, Fullerton’s right-handed sophomore Renaissance man Tyler Pill threw 11 strikeouts and allowed only three hits in eight innings. A right fielder when not pitching, Pill also bats cleanup in a starting lineup that hit .321 heading into the series against the Gauchos. On Sunday, he went 4-5 with an RBI.
“We just ran into a buzzsaw in Tyler Pill,” Gaucho Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He was outstanding in both his pitching and hitting roles [on Sunday]. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch in the big leagues someday, even as an undersized right-hander.”
Junior right fielder Mark Haddow added, “[Pill] had really good command of the zone, he painted the outside corner relentlessly. He played both of his off-speed pitches for strikes, so we had to go up swinging.”
Meanwhile, Gaucho right-handed junior Jesse Meaux struck out three, allowing 11 hits, no walks and earning five runs in Sunday’s loss.
“Jesse could’ve done a lot worse with that potent of a lineup,” Terhune said. “He made a couple of mistakes and [the Titans] made him pay for them, [but] we have great confidence in him. It’s great that we have him as our Sunday guy.”
Fullerton’s aggressiveness was exemplified in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game. Already up 5-1, centerfielder Gary Brown tagged up from second and scored a run off a fly ball to center field.
“The guy was one of the fastest [players] I’ve ever seen, probably one of the fastest guys playing D-1 baseball,” Terhune said, who fielded the fly ball in deep center. “I didn’t think he’d be aggressive enough to do that, but [it] was a perfect example of why they win games. I was blown away, like, what the hell is going on?”
In Saturday’s game, Fullerton erupted for 22 hits. Gaucho left-handed junior Nick Capito was tagged with the loss after accruing 12 earned runs and 14 hits in 4.2 innings pitched. Brown had five hits, two home runs, five RBI and two stolen bases in the win.
On Friday, Terhune’s two-run homerun to left-center in the bottom of the seventh inning proved to be the difference in the game. Hollands improved to 3-2 after nearly completing his third game of the season.
“Mario’s our [Tyler] Pill,” Brontsema said. “He did to [Fullerton] what they did to us. That’s how well Mario pitched. Fullerton has a great offense, and they lead the Big West in a lot of categories. For me, that’s what makes what Mario did that much more impressive.”
Before UCSB begins its three-game Big West series against Long Beach State on April 23, the team plays USC in Los Angeles on April 20.
“I think we’re still in a good position to move forward and do well in the Big West,” Hollands said. “Hopefully we can keep up this good energy. There are still plenty of teams we’re capable of taking the series against.”