It may be a month away from conference season, but the UCSB baseball team sent a major statement to the Big West last night, defeating defending champion UCLA on the road 6-4.
UCSB improves to 4-1 on the season with the win, with three of the victories coming away from home. UCLA drops to an even 4-4 record and has lost three straight games.
Sophomore Domenic Mazza took the mound for UCSB in his first start of the season and went to work quickly, retiring five of the first six batters he faced with two strikeouts.
The game remained scoreless until the third inning when the Gauchos began roughing up UCLA freshman pitcher Grant Dyer with back-to-back hits, culminating in a three-run homerun by junior shortstop Peter Maris to give Santa Barbara a 3-0 lead.
After two runs by the Bruins, the Gauchos began to see Dyer unravel and was forced out of the game after allowing two batters on base with one out in the fifth inning. Dyer underperformed for the Bruins, allowing five hits to go along with five earned runs on the evening.
Catching the relief pitcher off guard, Santa Barbara succeeded in pulling off a double steal that resulted in an errant throw by UCLA’s catcher and another run for the Gauchos.
With a runner now on third base, junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa came to the plate and delivered his second homerun of the season, a shot to right field to extend UCSB’s lead to 6-2.
Meanwhile, Mazza cruised into the sixth inning until showing fatigue and walking two batters.
Mazza had 5.2 innings of solid work, striking out three and allowing two earned runs. Mazza displayed control and kept hitters off-balanced for a majority of the game.
As in previous wins, the UCSB relief pitchers came in and shut the door on the opposing hitters.
After scoring on an unearned run in the seventh inning, the Bruins tried mounting a comeback in the next inning but junior Greg Mahle struck out the final two batters of the inning to end the rally.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, sophomore Dillon Tate came in as closer for his second save of the season. Tate began by striking out the first batter he faced on a 2-2 count, followed by striking out the next batter swinging. Tate finished off the game on a lineout to first base, giving the Gauchos their first win over UCLA since 2011.
UCSB relief pitching delivered another impressive performance, combining for 3.1 innings pitched, two hits allowed, one earned run and four strikeouts.
Offensively, the Gauchos continued last weekend’s hitting surge, getting eight hits and converting on scoring opportunities in clutch situations against the Bruins.
In its last three games, UCSB has totaled 43 hits with six different players getting RBIs.
UCSB will next prepare for its first four-game homestand of the season against Princeton University beginning Friday, including a doubleheader on Saturday.
A version of this article appeared on page 12 of Feb. 26th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of the Daily Nexus.