In danger of being swept at home by Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara finally put it together Sunday afternoon, defeating the Matadors 8-4 behind a gritty seven-inning start from junior right-hander Jesse Meaux.
“This win helps us out a lot,” junior left-hander Mario Hollands said. “The series should have been ours, but at least this gives us momentum going into [UC] Irvine next weekend.”
Junior left fielder Ben Edelstein had three hits in the victory, capping off a monster weekend that included nine hits, four runs, two RBI and his first home run in a Gaucho uniform. Edelstein now leads the team with a .424 average after a sensational string of games in place of injured senior left fielder Ryan Tregoning.
“[Edelstein] finally got a chance and did everything he could’ve done,” Hollands said. “He’s been on fire, and with our team struggling we’re going to need a hot bat in the lineup.”
Strong relief pitching at game’s end was also instrumental in securing the win. Leading 5-4 with two outs in the top of the eighth, senior right-hander David Meals entered the game and promptly struck out Northridge’s best hitter with the bases loaded. After the Gauchos plated three more runs in the bottom half of the inning, Meals came on and retired the Matadors for his third save of the season.
“Meals has been lights out the entire year,” Hollands said. “To see him dominate today was great.”
Though Hollands, Meals and the rest of the Santa Barbara bullpen pitched well in the series opener, a lack of timely hitting would be the Gauchos undoing on Friday. Pinch-hitting to lead off the bottom of the ninth, junior Brett Fick launched a solo home run to tie the game at 5-5. But after two singles and a hit batsman, the Gauchos failed to get the runner home from third with no outs.
In the 10th and 13th frames, the Gauchos would again find themselves a hit away from walking off with a win, but again failed to deliver with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs. Northridge eventually took advantage, sending home the winning run with an RBI double in the 14th wrapping up a 6-5 marathon before darkness took hold of CU Stadium.
“The worst part [about the game] was that we had so many chances,” Hollands said. “[Northridge] basically gave the game to us and we couldn’t take advantage.”
The Matadors left nothing to chance in game two of the series, jumping on junior starter Nick Capito and junior reliever Greg Davis in the fifth inning to the tune of seven runs on eight hits and six stolen bases. Down 9-0 midway through the game, the Gauchos tried to rally late but could only do so much in what ended up being an 11-4 CSUN victory.
With its fourth Big West series loss in five tries, UCSB (20-22 overall, 6-9 Big West) falls to seventh place in conference while Northridge (24-19, 6-9) moves into sixth.