The UCSB baseball team suffered its first series loss against a conference opponent at home this season after Cal State Fullerton was able to take the last two games of the set to extend its first place standing in the Big West.
The Gauchos have now fallen to 32-15-1 on the season and 10-8 in conference play. They are currently playing the worst baseball they have all season after going 2-5 in the last seven games, and with three of those losses coming at home, a place where UCSB had only lost once this season prior to this current stretch of games.
The Titans are now 32-17 overall with a 14-4 Big West record, good for first place in the standings. With six games remaining in conference play, CSUF now has a three-game lead over second place LBSU — who they have yet to play — and a four-game lead over UCSB.
Sunday’s game was a big one for the Gauchos, as they still had a chance to win the series over a very good Fullerton team. They also needed to bounce back from an embarrassing 18-2 loss on Saturday.
However, Santa Barbara started off the game slow, allowing two runs in the first inning to Fullerton. CSUF then extended its lead to 3-0 after adding a run in the third inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Gauchos finally struck back as a two-RBI double by junior utility player Billy Fredrick brought them back to within one run.
In the fifth inning, UCSB tied the game at 3-3 after a solid RBI double from redshirt junior outfielder Devon Gradford.
Although three runs were enough to win Friday’s game, it was not enough to beat the Titans on Sunday, as they rallied off one run to take a 4-3 in the seventh courtesy of a wild pitch from redshirt sophomore Kyle Nelson.
After that, CSUF never looked back. In the eighth inning they scored two more runs to take a 6-3 lead after an error by the UCSB second baseman scored two Fullerton runners.
The Gauchos went cold the last three innings, mustering only one hit, which led to their eventual 6-3 loss.
Nelson (6-1) picked up his first loss of the season after allowing the go-ahead run in the seventh. On the CSUF side, junior pitchers Dylan Prohoroff (1-1) and Scott Serigstad combined to allow only one hit in the final 3.1 innings of play.
Before losing the series on a tough game, Santa Barbara suffered its worst loss of the season after being blown out on their home turf by a final score of 18-2.
The Titans were able to score at least one run in seven of the nine innings of the match and their seven-run outburst — which came when they were already up 7-2 — in the sixth inning is what put away the Gauchos for good.
The 18-run, 21-hit game allowed by the Gauchos is the most they allowed all season in both those categories, with their 16-run loss being their worst run differential loss of the year.
CSUF designated hitter Ruben Cardenas had a career day, setting career highs in hits and RBIs. The freshman went 4-6 (.667) with six RBIs, three runs scored and a big two-run homer in the seventh inning, his second of the season.
Senior first baseman Tanner Pinkston also had a great game, going 4-5 (.800) with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Over the course of the nine innings, Titan pitchers combined to allow only four hits and two runs while striking out seven batters. Nothing went right for the Gauchos on either end of the mound.
Before Saturday’s embarrassing loss, UCSB actually managed to gain the early advantage on CSUF after sneaking by with a 3-2 victory.
The scoring began in the second inning as redshirt sophomore third baseman J.J. Muno hit his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot that put the Gauchos up 1-0.
The Titans responded in the fourth inning after junior infielder Timmy Richards hit his team high eighth home run of the season to tie the game up at one.
UCSB then hit another home run, this one courtesy of freshman catcher Sam Cohen — the first of his career — to re-take a one run lead at 2-1.
CSUF tied the game at two after another RBI from Richards, but the Gauchos freshman infielder Tevin Mitchell hit an RBI ground out to take the 3-2 lead after the seventh inning.
Nelson then picked up his sixth save of the season after pitching the final two frames, allowing only one hit.
Junior Shane Bieber (9-3) pitched a great game, allowing only six hits and two runs in seven innings pitched while also striking out six batters. The win gave him the 20th of his career, and he is now tied for eighth in UCSB program history for career wins.
Overall, Santa Barbara squandered an amazing opportunity to really move up the rankings and break the slump it has been in. Instead, its two home losses this past weekend tied its loss total in the first 24 home games of the season.
The home-field advantage the Gauchos used to have seems to have dissipated as they have now lost three of their last four home games.
As the season nears its end, UCSB has to figure out its issue of poor play soon or its once promising season will end in a disappointing fashion.
The Gauchos next game is against UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Tuesday, May 16 at 6 p.m.