The No. 25 UCSB baseball team was one game away from completing a sweep of UC Riverside at home, but yesterday’s disappointing 7-3 loss left the Gauchos with a bittersweet feeling.
“We really wanted and needed a sweep in terms of looking at the postseason,” junior second baseman Woody Woodward said. “Series wins are important, but in the position we’re in, we really wanted a sweep there.”
Despite losing yesterday, the Gauchos improved to 26-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big West conference by winning the first two games of the series. UCR goes to 18-21 overall and 7-5 in league play.
Santa Barbara fell behind early in yesterday’s game. UCSB was down 4-0 as early as the first inning as freshman pitcher Shane Bieber struggled settling in. The Gaucho offense was kept in check by the Highlanders’ senior relief pitcher Dylan Stuart. Stuart entered the game in the fourth inning and had command of his four pitches to keep hitters guessing throughout his 5.2 innings of work.
“They came out and scored four in the first; that’s usually tough to rebound from,” Woodward said. “Those are big momentum swings. We added on and responded and scored in the same inning — in the first — but it’s tough when you have a deficit like that early on. I think some things didn’t go our way (yesterday).”
UCSB mounted a come-from-behind 6-5 win on Saturday after erasing a two-run deficit. Down 5-3 in the sixth inning, the Gauchos got the ball rolling on a double that brought junior outfielder Cameron Newell home from first base.
After the Highlanders went down quietly in the top of the seventh inning, Santa Barbara began the bottom half with consecutive singles to put runners on first and second base. UCSB was quick to capitalize on the situation when UCR committed a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt that brought in the runner from second. With one out and the scored tied, Newell gave UCSB the lead with an RBI groundout before the inning ended.
Now with a one-run lead, Head Coach Andrew Checketts elected to bring in his shutdown closer, sophomore Dillon Tate, for the two-inning save. The right-hander had his usual stuff working and converted his tenth save of the season, with five of the six outs recorded coming by way of strikeout.
“We rely on Dillon to do that when he comes in the game,” junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa said. “We think he’s going to get it done. It wasn’t a surprise to any of us how he performed.”
UCSB was in full control in the series’ opening game on Friday, coming out with a 6-2 win behind the stellar pitching of sophomore Justin Jacome. Jacome tossed 6.1 innings of three-hit ball and gave up only two runs on the day to improve his record to 5-1 on the season.
“He did a good job throwing strikes and pounding the strike zone,” Checketts said. “He struggled a little bit with his command early and was able to find it; he did a good job.”
Junior shortstop Peter Maris led the way offensively for Santa Barbara with a three-hit performance. Maris tripled in the first inning to bring in a runner from first base and then came home on a sacrifice fly to give UCSB a 2-0 lead. Maris once again came to bat with a runner on second in the sixth inning and singled to left field to tack on another run for the Gauchos.
UCR got back to into the game with a two-run seventh inning, however, Santa Barbara countered with a three-run effort in the bottom half to push its lead to 6-2 and put away the Highlanders.
UCSB will next play UCLA at home on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
A version of this story appeared on page 6 of April 28, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of The Daily Nexus.