In its most critical conference series of the season, the UCSB baseball team came out flat against the top team in the conference, UC Irvine, losing all three games in the series after yesterday’s 8-0 defeat.
UCSB drops to sixth place in the Big West at 7-11 in the conference and 26-14-1 overall on the season. Meanwhile, Irvine remains atop the standings as it extends its conference winning streak to 12 games and improves to 14-1 in league and 32-14 overall.
UCSB trailed early yesterday after a big five-run inning by the Anteaters, a deficit the Gauchos did not come close to challenging for the entire game. Freshman pitcher Shane Bieber was erratic in his start, managing to get only one out before Head Coach Andrew Checketts went to the bullpen. Bieber was victim to five hits and two errors; it only took 23 pitches for Bieber to exit the game.
Irvine scored two more runs the following inning to put the game out of reach for Santa Barbara.
This marks the first time UCSB has been swept by a conference opponent since 2012.
In danger of losing another conference series, the Gauchos clung to a late lead before giving up three runs in the final innings to lose 3-2 on Saturday. Santa Barbara previously had a 19-0 record when leading after six innings, but sophomore closer Dillon Tate allowed the game-winning single to the first batter he faced in the eighth inning.
UCSB held Irvine scoreless entering the seventh inning up by two runs until UCI began its comeback. Junior third baseman Robby Nesovic committed a throwing error to first base, allowing the runner on third to advance and tie the game after UCI earned its first run on a RBI groundout.
The two runs were charged to junior pitcher Austin Pettibone, who exited the game after allowing hits to the first two batters of the inning. Pettibone worked efficiently other than his final inning pitched. The right-hander commanded the strike zone to keep the Anteaters off the board, but ran out of gas towards the end. He finished with 6.1 innings pitched, four strikeouts and two walks allowed.
Junior second baseman Woody Woodward came to bat in the second inning with a runner in scoring position to earn the game’s first run on a RBI single to center field. Not until the fifth inning did we see any scoring from either side. Senior left fielder Joey Epperson knocked in a run on only his third hit of his last 26 plate appearances against a conference opponent to give the Gauchos a 2-0 lead at the time.
Irvine jumped out to a two-run lead in the second inning of the series’ first game on three hits off of starting sophomore pitcher Justin Jacome. UCSB, however, was quick to counter with two runs of its own in the following inning to tie the contest at two runs apiece.
Junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa knocked in both runs with a bases-loaded, two-out single to right center field. In putting up two runs on the scoreboard, Santa Barbara became just the fourth team this season to score multiple runs against UCI’s senior pitcher Andrew Morales.
Jacome ran into trouble again in the fifth inning, first by allowing a single and a walk, then by giving up a two-run RBI double to junior first baseman Connor Spencer for a 4-2 Anteater lead. Still in the sixth inning, Jacome retired two batters before giving up a triple to score the runner from first base.
UCI tacked on one more run in the seventh inning as Morales kept UCSB in check throughout the game. Morales improved to 8-0 on the season, pitching 7.2 innings, striking out seven and walking only three.
UCSB plays tomorrow against Cal State Bakersfield on the road in a one-game solo series. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of May 4th’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of The Daily Nexus.