Despite having nowhere near the offensive output of last weekend’s series, the UCSB baseball team proved it could win in close games, defeating Waseda University of Japan 2-1 on a pinch hit walk-off by junior Tyler Kuresa.
After a weekend series in which Santa Barbara outscored its opponent 38-11, the Gaucho offense returned to a level of normalcy against the Japanese powerhouse. Santa Barbara had 10 strikeouts and left seven runners on base, but put a runner in scoring position in the ninth inning for Kuresa to drive in.
Santa Barbara’s victory will not count on its record as the matchup against Waseda was an exhibition game, but the Gauchos have now won six games straight including yesterday’s win and have taken eight of nine games to start the season, one of the program’s best starts to a campaign.
Head Coach Andrew Checketts used the contest to maximize his pitching staff, sending six different players to the mound. Junior pitcher Andrew Vasquez gave up a run in the first inning allowing a triple to the first hitter, followed by a sacrifice fly to advance the runner. However, that was the only damage done to UCSB.
Vasquez, sophomore Robby Nesovic and junior Campbell Wear pitched the most innings for the Gauchos, going two innings each. The staff as a whole shutdown Waseda to allow only two hits on the day while striking out five.
UCSB manufactured a run in the fourth inning on a two-out single by freshman catcher Dempsey Grover to tie the game at one apiece. That was the only blemish done to starting pitcher Yuhei Takanashi on the day as he exited after four innings of work that included five strikeouts.
Despite being held in check, UCSB had its opportunities on offense. After consecutive singles in the sixth inning, sophomore outfielder Dalton Kelly hit into a double play to end the scoring threat for UCSB.
The Gauchos put together another scoring chance in the following inning when a runner reached third base on a sac bunt with one out. However, Waseda punched out the runner on third on a fielder’s choice and UCSB went down quietly.
Although managing 11 hits in the game, UCSB hitters did not bring another run home until the ninth inning. With one out in the inning, freshman designated hitter Josh Adams singled to right field, followed by a pinch hit single by senior infielder Joey Epperson to put runners on second and first base.
After a strikeout, Kuresa delivered the game-winning hit to right center field to win the game for UCSB. It was Kuresa’s team-leading 12th RBI of the season.
Grover had the best game by a Gaucho from the plate, going 3-4 with an RBI in his third game of the season. Junior outfielder Scott Quinlan was also productive, getting two hits in four at-bats.
Waseda previously defeated the university of Southern California 3-1 on Monday in the midst of a Southern California international road trip. The team will next face UCLA today.
This matchup against one of the best university baseball teams in Japan was a unique opportunity for the Gauchos to face some international competition. It is certainly always a special event when teams from different nations can come together to play and celebrate a national pastime.
UCSB now goes on the road to Arizona University to play powerhouses Mississippi State and Arizona in a three-team tournament this weekend. UCSB will play both teams twice with its first game against the Bulldogs at 2 p.m on Friday.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of March 5, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.