In its first game of the season, the UCSB baseball team defeated Cal State Bakersfield 5-1 on the strength of its bullpen after a rocky performance from its starting pitcher.
Sophomore pitcher Dylan Hecht, the team’s best pitcher coming into the season, put UCSB in an early hole until the Gauchos responded with a three-run homerun that proved to be the difference in the game.
“He didn’t look like himself. He was a little hesitant, and he didn’t have great command,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “It looked like he had some demons working against him on the mound. He looked like he tried to make it a life or death situation out there.”
Hecht ran into trouble starting in the second inning, giving up a double and a wild pitch before allowing a run to score on a single to center field. Hecht put himself in another hole in the third inning when he loaded the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch.
With one out, freshman centerfielder Andrew Calica delivered the play of the game with a diving catch that resulted in a double play to end the top half of the inning.
“[Calica] made a diving play, came up and doubled [the runner] off second base, and that turned the momentum around,” Checketts said.
UCSB got the break it needed in the third inning when junior second baseman Woody Woodward advanced to third on an error, putting runners on second and third base. Junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa took advantage of the miscue and delivered his first homerun of the season, sending the ball just over the right field fence.
With UCSB on top 3-1, Hecht settled down after three erratic innings pitched to retire the side in the fourth. Hecht finished the game with three hits allowed, four walks and six strikeouts before turning the ball over to the bullpen in the fifth inning.
Sophomore Hector Lujan took over on the mound after Hecht’s early exit and struck out five of the first six batters he faced.
Santa Barbara tacked on an extra run in the sixth inning when senior catcher Jackson Morrow scored from first base on a two-out triple by third baseman Joey Epperson. Morrow scored again in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly from Woodward. Morrow had a productive day from the plate, going 2-2, scoring two runs and two walks.
Junior pitcher Greg Mahle took over after three innings pitched by Lujan and pitched himself into trouble before getting the last out on a fly out.
With the game well in hand, sophomore pitcher Dillon Tate came in to close out the ninth and ended the game on a fielder’s choice to give UCSB a 5-1 win.
The three relief pitchers combined for no runs allowed, one walk and six strikes in five innings tossed.
“I was really happy with our relief pitching,” Checketts said. “Hector Lujan, who threw a little bit for us last year as a freshman, really came in and did well. We had really quality relief from Hector Lujan and Greg Mahle.”
The Gauchos will continue its schedule this Friday on the road in its first three-game series of the season against San Jose State.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of Feb. 19th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of the Daily Nexus