For the second consecutive weekend, the UCSB baseball team entered its series finale against the University of San Francisco with a chance to sweep, yet, after digging itself into an early deficit, the team once again failed to win its final game of the series, losing yesterday by a score of 8-4.
After Sunday’s loss, the Gauchos’ record stands at 31-17-1 and 9-12 in Big West. San Francisco drops to 25-28 on the season. By taking the first two games of the series, however, UCSB breaks the program’s record for best non-conference winning percentage in a year and clinches consecutive 30-win seasons for the first time since 1991-1992.
On Sunday, sophomore pitcher Greg Mahle had his first start of the season, but was roughed up in 3.1 innings of work. The left-hander gave up five runs on eight hits before getting pulled from the game in favor of sophomore relief pitcher Dillon Tate.
By the end of four innings, UCSB trailed 5-2 and failed to pull any closer, scoring just two more runs before eventually losing.
Despite the loss, the result for the Gauchos was a lot different from the previous two games played.
Junior pitcher Austin Pettibone delivered his second consecutive complete-game shutout on Saturday en route to a 6-0 win by UCSB. Pettibone went the distance to improve his record to 4-1 on the year, giving up only five hits, a walk and striking out a season-high 10 batters.
Santa Barbara manufactured two runs in the first inning by way of stolen bases and singles. After senior left fielder Joey Epperson got on board via hit by pitch, he stole second base and scored on a RBI hit by sophomore third baseman Robby Nesovic. Nesovic later advanced to scoring position and came home on a base hit by junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa.
While Pettibone cruised past USF’s lineup, the Gauchos tacked on one more run in the fourth inning to push their lead to 3-0. Junior right fielder Scott Quinlan advanced to third base by stealing two bases after he singled and scored on a RBI groundout by junior second baseman Woody Woodward.
The Gauchos scored one more run in the sixth on a RBI single by sophomore utility Devon Gradford, and twice again in the eighth to complete the 6-0 route.
Santa Barbara had a hot start to the series opener on Friday and never looked back, winning 10-4. In the first inning with runners on the corners, Nesovic came up to bat and singled to score Epperson from third base. An error by USF scored another run for the Gauchos to extend their lead to 2-0.
UCSB went on to score three more runs in the second inning by converting on its bases loaded opportunity. With a runner on each base, the Gauchos’ first run of the frame came by way of pass ball. Nesovic then followed with a bases clearing double that scored two additional runs. Santa Barbara came out of the inning leading by five runs.
USF earned a run in the third inning off of sophomore starting pitcher Justin Jacome, but the Dons were unable to produce any big run innings in the game. San Francisco’s biggest inning came in the fifth when it scored two runs, but Jacome kept the Dons’ offense on check. In 7.2 innings of work, Jacome limited USF to just six hits and struck out four on his way to picking up his seventh win on the year, the most on the staff.
UCSB scored five more times in the game, including a homerun by Quinlan in the fifth inning, his first of the season. Quinlan’s 2-5 performance from the plate was just one of the Gauchos’ many solid hitting performances on the day. Epperson had a perfect game from the batter’s box, hitting 3-3 and walking in his three other plate appearances. Nesovic had three RBI in his four-hit game.
Santa Barbara now awaits its final series of the season this weekend against conference opponent, UC Davis.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of May 19th, 2014th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of the Daily Nexus.