This weekend’s results could have very easily gone the other way.
The No. 14 UCSB baseball team salvaged a 2-1 win in Saturday’s series finale against Long Beach State after losing the previous two games by one run each.
UCSB’s record drops to 24-10 overall and 5-7 in the Big West despite the Gauchos displaying their best pitching of the season. The performance was offset by Long Beach’s own pitching dominance. LBSU held the Gauchos to just four runs in the series to creep closer to .500 at 18-19 overall and 5-4 in conference.
LBSU had no answer for freshman pitcher Shane Bieber on Saturday. Bieber tossed eight innings of four-hit ball and struck out eight batters to limit the Dirtbags to just one run.
“That was the best I’ve ever seen [Bieber],” junior pitcher Austin Pettibone said. “He was kind of in the zone with his fastball. His slider was pretty filthy. That’s all you want to do — to be able to get deep into the game.”
His outing set the stage for sophomore pitcher Dillon Tate to collect his ninth save of the season.
UCSB broke the game’s deadlock on a RBI groundout by sophomore utility player Robby Nesovic in the third inning to go up 1-0. Santa Barbara manufactured another run in the following inning on a fly out, after a sacrifice bunt advanced a runner to third base.
Much of the game from there on consisted of each team’s pitching retiring the others’ bats. Bieber’s lone blemish came in the fifth inning when he allowed a runner to score on a fielder’s choice.
Bieber was near perfect on the day, needing only 93 pitches for the win and lowering his ERA to 2.89.
Bieber’s outing came the day before when Long Beach’s senior pitcher Josh Frye shutout the Gauchos in a tight 1-0 decision. Frye canceled out Pettibone’s own impressive efforts. The two starters were locked in a pitcher’s duel with Pettibone exiting after six innings with one run allowed.
After Long Beach capitalized on two hits in the first inning to score the game’s only run, Pettibone seemed in for a long outing similar to his last start, but the right-hander settled down from there on.
“It felt good to throw well again; I’ve been struggling these past couple weeks against Cal Poly and Fullerton,” Pettibone said. “I gave up an earned run which ended up hurting us, but overall I had a competitive outing.”
Frye went the distance to improve to 3-0 on the season. Long Beach has now won Frye’s last four starts as the senior has given up only one run in his last 27 innings thrown.
UCSB’s only threat came by way of junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa, who was the only Gaucho to get past first base.
Thursday’s five-run game was the highest scoring game of the series. Mounting a two-run rally in the ninth, the Gauchos’ comeback attempt fell short in the bottom half of the inning on a walk-off hit by the Dirtbags.
Long Beach’s sophomore pitcher Andrew Rohrbach kept hitters guessing for eight innings and did not rattle until the ninth. Kuresa doubled to force a change, and junior Kyle Friedrichs came in for the save.
Friedrichs, however, gave up a walk and was victim to an infield error that brought in the runner from second. Freshman DH Billy Fredrick then stepped up to the plate and delivered the game-tying hit to nod the score at 2-2 for the Gauchos.
Long Beach got the bottom half of the inning started with a single off junior Greg Mahle. Mahle, who has been a workhorse and reliable relief pitcher for the Gauchos, retired the next batter before giving up the game-winning double for the 3-2 loss.
UCSB next hosts UCR beginning Friday.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of April 21, 2014′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Cameryn Brock of The Daily Nexus.