The UCSB baseball team had its biggest series of the year so far against first-place Cal State Fullerton this past weekend.
The Gauchos dropped two out of three in the weekend set, losing Friday 4-3 and Saturday 10-2. Neverthless, they took the final game of the series by shutting out the Titans on Sunday afternoon 2-0.
With the win in game three, the Gauchos improved to 18-16 on the year and 4-5 in the Big West. In addition, they were able to hand Fullerton its first loss in league play. The Titans move to 31-5 overall and 8-1 in conference play, maintaining hold of first place in the Big West.
On Friday, the Gauchos played a night game on the road, but did not seem to skip a beat from their previous few games as they again jumped ahead to an early lead 1-0 in the first inning. Sophomore center fielder Cameron Newell extended his hitting streak right away with a single into right center. Junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon singled with one out to move Newell to third, who then proceeded to score on freshman designated hitter Robby Nesovic’s groundout.
Bats then went quiet in the game as both starting pitchers were on top of their games. Sophomore pitcher Austin Pettibone pitched seven and two thirds innings and allowed just two runs on 11 hits while striking out three. On the other side for the Titans, freshman Thomas Eshelman topped Pettibone with eight innings of work, just one earned run and seven strikeouts.
Neither starter factored in the decision as the game was decided on a blown save and a loss by the Gaucho bullpen, allowing two runs in the bottom of the ninth. The Gauchos put up two runs in the top of the ninth to take a 3-2 lead, but a leadoff bunt in the bottom of the ninth began the trouble for UCSB.
The bullpen then crumbled as two walks by freshman closer Dylan Hecht loaded the bases. He was replaced by senior reliever Jared Wilson who came in and threw a wild pitch to allow one run before a sac fly ended the game 4-3.
On Saturday, Fullerton came out and roughed up any Gaucho pitcher to take the mound. Freshman starting pitcher Justin Jacome got through just three innings after he allowed six runs on eight hits.
He was relieved by freshman Hector Lujan, who was also touched up for three runs in just an inning and a third. Freshman pitcher Domenic Mazza then came in to stop the offensive explosion and gave up just one run in his three and two thirds innings.
Freshman Justin Garza of the Titans earned his seventh win of the season and is still without a loss on the year after his seven inning, nine strikeout performance.
Game three was a flipped script after the previous day’s drubbing. Nesovic pitched six and two thirds innings of shutout ball. He allowed just four hits and struck out two but walked four en route to his first win of the year.
The Gauchos’ two runs would prove to be enough, as the Titans could not muster any offense. Newell saw his hit streak come to an end on Sunday after 12 straight games while Woody Woodward pushed his up to eight games over the weekend.
Up next for Santa Barbara will be a one-game trip to San Diego on Tuesday evening. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of April 15th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of the Daily Nexus.