A win against top-30 ranked UC Irvine on Sunday gave the Gauchos plenty of reason to think upset heading into Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA. Then again, the Bruins are a top-10 team in the national polls, and they played like it yesterday afternoon in a 6-2 win over visiting UCSB.
The Gauchos rallied late after going hitless through five innings, but a two-run eighth was no match for the dominant pitching of #10 UCLA. Seven Bruin hurlers allowed only two combined runs with 10 strikeouts out of the bullpen. The Gaucho relief corps did not fare as well, giving up four runs in the seventh — the difference in the game.
“They don’t have a guy coming out of the pen that doesn’t throw strikes,” senior center fielder Gunnar Terhune said. “All those live arms throwing quality pitches … that’s the difference. It’s tough to get motivated when you only score a couple runs in a game.”
A struggling Terhune did his part to help get the Gaucho offense rolling, recording the team’s first hit leading off the sixth with a single up the middle. But after a stolen base to put him at third and a hit by pitch that awarded junior right fielder Mark Haddow first base, senior shortstop Matt Valaika grounded out to end Santa Barbara’s first real threat.
Valaika faced a similar situation Sunday at Irvine with his team trailing and came through with a two-run single. Against another one of the best pitching staffs in the nation, stringing hits together was no easy task.
“They [the Bruins] have a bunch of talented pitchers,” junior left-handed starter Mario Hollands said. “With guys that throw commanding fastballs and breaking pitches at the right time, they’re tough to beat.”
Junior Gaucho left-hander Nick Capito (4-6, 6.42 ERA) pitched three strong innings in a short lived midweek start after missing his usual Saturday start against the Anteaters, giving up only one run on a sacrifice fly in the first. Junior right-hander Greg Davis (1-2, 5.54 ERA) had a quality outing in relief of Capito, his only blemish being a solo shot given up in the fifth.
“Capito and Greg [Davis] did well, but that one inning where they got four runs hurt us,” Hollands said.
The Bruins brought the pain in the seventh, jumping on UCSB junior right-hander Nick Loredo (0-4, 7.35 ERA) with three hits and a walk to move the score to 6-0. With only six outs to work with, a Santa Barbara comeback was hard to fathom.
A leadoff double by sophomore designated hitter Lance Roenicke gave the Gauchos a glimmer of hope in the eighth, but putting two runs on the board was simply too little too late. UCLA closer Dan Klein shut the door in the ninth to put his team in the win column.
“We were able to minimize the damage early in the game, but that didn’t last,” Terhune said.
With a loss to a national contender now behind them, Santa Barbara will look to rebound against the last-place team UC Davis this weekend at home. The Gauchos took two of three from the Aggies at Dobbins Baseball Complex last season.