In an early conference season matchup between the two best teams in the Big West, the No. 13 UCSB baseball team was upended by No. 5 Cal Poly in yesterday’s rubber game, 1-0, on the back of the Mustang’s strong pitching.
After its best start in program history since 1984, the Gauchos drop to 20-7 on the season and 2-4 in conference play. It is the first time since 2012 that UCSB has lost consecutive series. Cal Poly continues its hot start to the season and is 26-5 and 5-1 in league.
Freshman pitcher Shane Bieber delivered a solid outing yesterday, going 5.2 innings and striking out six Cal Poly batters. The only blemish on the pitcher’s afternoon came in the fourth inning, when he allowed a single and a triple to go down 1-0.
It was the only run Cal Poly would need on the day. Sophomore Casey Bloomquist had a stellar performance on the mound and kept UCSB on check. Bloomquist pitched his way to the eighth inning while striking out 10 hitters to move to 7-0 on the season.
The score in the second game resembled more of what the two best offenses in the Big West were capable of. Santa Barbara found itself down by five runs as early as the second inning but mounted a comeback in the fourth with a six-run inning. Seven hits in the inning, including a double by junior outfielder Cameron Newell, gave UCSB a 6-5 lead.
The lead was short lived as Cal Poly retook the lead in the bottom half of the inning with two more runs until UCSB again tied the game 7-7.
With both offenses on display through the first five innings of the game, the next three turned into a pitching duel between the two bullpens. Sophomore Kenny Chapman pitched 4.1 innings of relief and was not charged a run, striking out four with four hits allowed.
Tied going into the bottom half of the ninth inning, the Mustangs put a runner on first base and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore pitcher Dillon Tate faced senior catcher Chris Hoo for the final out of the inning but gave up a hit up the middle for the walk-off 8-7 win.
In the first game of the series, UCSB was down 2-0 going to the third inning when it quickly erased the lead on the power of back-to-back homeruns. Sophomore utility player Robby Nesovic smashed his first homer of the season with two runners on base, followed by another homerun by junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa, his team-leading eighth of the season.
The power surge did not end there. UCSB broke out for three more runs in the next inning to extend its lead to 7-2. It was a one-man show as senior infielder/outfielder Joey Epperson doubled to bring in two runs and scored on a wild pitch.
Junior pitcher Austin Pettibone exited after four innings as the righty struggled containing the potent Mustang offense. However, the Gaucho bullpen was there to pick up for Pettibone. Tate and junior Greg Mahle closed the door, pitching five innings of one-run ball for the 8-6 UCSB win.
Santa Barbara has found itself struggling recently, losing four of its last six games.
UCSB returns to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium in a critical series against Big West powerhouse Cal State Fullerton.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of April 7, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.