The UCSB baseball team’s prospects of making the postseason have seemingly disappeared with Tuesday night’s loss to No. 8 UCLA, 2-1. The Gauchos have been on a tear as of late, making a push to slip into the playoffs, but a win against the Bruins would have gone a long way to getting Santa Barbara into the postseason.
“I don’t think we are totally out of the playoffs, but we are going to have to get some luck,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “A lot of other stuff is going to have to happen. We probably have to finish in second [in the Big West] or tie for second which means Cal Poly needs to lose.”
With the loss, the Gauchos fall to 31-23 and have lost the season series to UCLA 0-2. The Bruins, however, improve to 38-15 as they remain locked in second place in the Pac-12 with the non-conference match-up between the two teams.
The Gauchos characteristically jumped on the board early, taking on one run in the first inning. Junior left fielder Joey Epperson led off the game by getting hit by a pitch. With the leadoff man aboard, junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon executed a sacrifice bunt to move the base runner into scoring position with just one out.
Number three hitter sophomore Woody Woodward had a productive out as his ground ball to third still managed to advance Epperson to third on the play. With two outs and a runner on third base, sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa did what he does best and drove in the go-ahead run with a base hit into left-center field.
Before the Gauchos could attempt a two-out rally, however, Kuresa was caught stealing second base to end the inning, and about all the offense the Gauchos would muster all night.
“We were trying to trick them with a delayed steal,” Checketts said. “We actually had them and it would have worked, but the pitcher missed and the throw was up almost like a pitchout and the catcher was able to see it. I think if it was a different pitch he would have been safe at second.”
The Bruins would come back to tie the game in the bottom half of the second inning. Junior shortstop Pat Valaika led off the inning with a triple into right-center field. A follow-up single by junior second baseman Kevin Williams would score Valaika and tie the score 1-1.
Freshman starting pitcher Justin Jacome worked his way out of the second-inning jam thanks to an inning-ending double play and eventually got locked up in a pitchers duel as both starters settled down after shaky early innings.
The Bruins freshman starting pitcher Cody Poteet was able to shut down the surging Gaucho offense Tuesday evening. Poteet went six strong innings, allowing just one run on one hit with just one walk and three strikeouts. Jacome pitched strong as well, but was not quite as stellar as he allowed two runs through five and two-thirds innings.
“We didn’t get a lot of hits and we didn’t execute,” Checketts said. “We knew it was going to be a low-scoring and detailed game but we weren’t able to get an out on a bunt and that hurt us. We had a chance to win 2-1 or 1-0 but we didn’t get an out on a bunt play.”
The Gauchos will finish up the regular season this weekend with a three-game series on the road at UC Davis.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of May 22nd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus.