Yesterday was a missed opportunity for the No. 24 UCSB baseball team. With the score tied 5-5 after 12 innings of play, the Gauchos had to settle for a tie against UCLA after umpires decided to call the game due to darkness taking over Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
“It’s disappointing. It should have never got to that,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “It should never have gotten to the extra innings. We executed poorly, we had a poor start, we had plenty of chances and weren’t able to execute the short game.”
UCSB goes to 26-11-1 on the season overall as its Big West record remains at 7-8. UCLA also receives its first draw of the year and moves to 22-19-1.
After junior starting pitcher Andrew Vasquez pitched himself out of danger in the first inning, the left-hander put himself in a hole once more in the following inning. With runners on second and third base, UCLA managed to earn the game’s first run with a single, followed by a two-run RBI that chased Vasquez from the game. UCLA would put up one more run after the pitching change as Vasquez was charged with all four runs despite allowing only three hits in total.
“His stuff wasn’t very good. I think he was a little flat,” Checketts said. “His command was just okay. He didn’t have great stuff today. The ball wasn’t coming out of his hand very good.”
Santa Barbara began clawing its way back into the game by scoring a run in the bottom half of the inning. After a walk and double that put two runners in scoring position, UCLA retired the next two batters but allowed a run on a fielding error that brought UCSB within three runs.
Down 4-1 in the third inning, the Gauchos tied the score with one swing of the bat. With two runners on base, junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa smashed a three-run blast over the right field fence for his team-leading ninth homerun of the season. It was his first since April 4 after he went a stretch of 37 at-bats without hitting one.
“I was trying to get something up in the zone, something elevated,” Kuresa said. “We had a runner on third with one out; I was just trying to hit a sac-fly and not a double play. I was pretty surprised he gave me a fastball there. He missed over the middle, and I put a good swing on it.”
The tie did not last long as UCLA manufactured a run in the next inning against sophomore pitcher Domenic Mazza, who came in relief for Vasquez. Mazza allowed a runner to reach first base, resulting in a successful steal of second after. The Bruins capitalized with another single to take the lead once more.
Now trailing, Santa Barbara remained persistent on offense and managed to tie the game once more. With consecutive hits to put runners on first and second base, junior shortstop Peter Maris advanced to within 90 feet from the plate on a fly-out. In need of a clutch hit, freshman center fielder Andrew Calica delivered with an RBI up the middle to complete the 5-5 comeback.
“We got some toughness,” Checketts said. “We’ve been down because the starting pitching hasn’t been very good this year. So we’ve been chasing runs quite a bit and have had a lot of situations like that. The guys definitely did a good job of coming back.”
With 10 runs combined through the first five innings, the game from there on turned into a battle between the bullpens. After Mazza pitched an efficient 4.1 innings, allowing only one earned run, Checketts handed the ball over to junior Greg Mahle. Mahle retired the first three batters faced in the seventh inning and had a quick eighth inning to end his appearance.
Despite not scoring for the rest of the game, the Gauchos did have opportunities to break the deadlock. UCSB put runners on the corners in the sixth inning for senior left fielder Joey Epperson, the team’s leading hitter. However, Epperson came up empty as he popped up to the shortstop to end the inning. In the following inning, the Gauchos failed to bring in Kuresa from third base after junior outfielder Scott Quinlan struck out looking with two outs.
UCSB used just four pitchers for the entire game, including using sophomore closer Dillon Tate for the final four innings. Tate was on point in his appearance, striking out four batters on only 56 pitches. His combination of fastball and sinker kept UCLA from scoring.
“I give all the credit in the world to Dillon,” Kuresa said. “He pitched a good game and they couldn’t do anything against him, too.”
After 12 innings of play and with night starting to become a factor, the umpires called the game as a 5-5 draw.
UCSB now prepares for its biggest series of the season against first-place in the Big West UC Irvine beginning this Friday.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of April 30, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of The Daily Nexus.