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The count was full, the game-winning run was standing on second base, and senior designated hitter Beck Wheeler was at the plate, unable to get a hit all game on Sunday against Big West rival Cal Poly.
[media-credit name="Photo Courtesy of Josh Morton" align="alignleft" width="250"][/media-credit]“I had a chance to win it in the 11th but grounded out,” Wheeler said. “I just had the same approach. I had to get it done this time.”
Wheeler’s walk-off single — a chopper that went back up through the infield —in the 13th inning drove in junior left fielder Joe Wallace and gave UCSB a 5-4 win over the visiting Mustangs in the Blue-Green Rivalry. With the loss, Cal Poly dropped to 3-3 in Big West play and 11-16 overall. UCSB improved its record to 14-12 overall and 2-1 in Big West play.
Senior left-hander Nick Capito pitched five innings, struck out five batters and allowed just three hits.
“Since we were the home team batting in the bottom of the inning, I wasn’t pitching with any pressure,” Capito said. “I was just trying to keep us in the game. It was a good team win.”
With the score 4-4 heading into the 10th inning, sophomore shortstop Steven Moon’s would-be home run bounced off the right field wall and back in play, leaving him stranded at second base for the remainder of the inning.
Cal Poly junior right-hander Jeff Johnson, a relief pitcher with a 0.92 ERA this season, held UCSB scoreless through the majority of extra-inning play, pitching 4.2 innings and striking out six.
“Johnson’s one of the better arms in the conference,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We had some opportunities but being the great pitcher he is, he didn’t let us break through.”
Johnson was relieved by Mustang right-hander Eugene Wright, who allowed UCSB’s Wallace into scoring position at second base before Wheeler’s game-winning at bat.
“[Wallace] is one of our fastest runners,” Wheeler said. “I knew I had to get the ball to the outfield and he’d be able to score from second base.”
Wallace was able to slide safe for the run just as Mustang junior center fielder Bobby Crocker’s throw was arriving at home plate.
“[Crocker] made a good throw but [Wallace] made a good slide,” senior right fielder Mark Haddow said. “It was a great ending.”
With Sunday’s win, the Gauchos were able to take the final two games of the series. On Saturday, Wallace hit a game-winning three-run home run over the right-field fence in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the series’ second game by a score of 7-4.
In Friday’s 6-4 loss, Cal Poly senior right-hander Mason Radeke struck out 13 batters. UCSB senior right-hander Jesse Meaux started the Big West opener for the Gauchos, but allowed four runs while hitting three batters in just over five innings.
“We’re glad we came back after losing on Friday and got two games,” Wheeler said. “We really needed this momentum.”
UCSB baseball returns to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium Tuesday at 3 p.m. for a game against visiting Cal State Northridge.