It was a beautiful day to play baseball at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium as the UCSB baseball team kicked off its three-game set against San Deigo State.
Despite the allure of a beautiful day, UCSB gave away a lingering 3-3 game late in the top of the ninth for a tough 5-3 loss to the Aztecs. Coming off a midweek win at Pepperdine, UCSB was 16-18 overall before dropping today’s opener to demote their record to 16-19.
The Aztecs continued to dominate with impressive batting averages throughout their offensively stacked lineup, improving their record to 28-11. They consistently executed at the plate despite the Gauchos pitching staff often getting ahead of them with two strikes, giving SDSU a total of 14 hits to the Gauchos mere six on the day.
All three runs scored by UCSB were unearned, handed to them by defensive errors from the Aztecs. The Gauchos were hitting the ball hard at some points, but their offense struggled as they failed to direct those hard hit balls between the gaps and continued to leave their men stranded on base by the end of the inning on multiple occasions.
Despite allowing one run early in the second, UCSB starting RHP Noah Davis (6-3, 4.57 ERA) was dominant across seven and one-third frames, recording five of his six strikeouts in the second and third innings alone.
But in the fifth, Davis gave up two consecutive RBI singles from sophomore first baseman Jordan Verdon and junior left fielder Tyler Adkison to score second baseman junior Alan Trejo and third baseman senior Andrew Brown, making the score 3-0 SDSU.
In reference to the previous statement about SDSU having a scary talented offense that may or may not haunt the dreams of the pitchers who prepare to face them, the batting averages of these four Aztecs, in the order mentioned previously, are .329, .393, .329, and .322 on the season so far.
UCSB, on the other hand, was graciously given opportunities to score on errors, just after SDSU had them scoreless with a three-run deficit thanks to their bats.
Redshirt junior catcher Dempsey Grover put down a solid bunt toward third base in the bottom of the fifth, which caused SDSU pitcher Marcus Reyes to scramble in a hurry to get the ball to first for an overthrow that advanced Grover to second. An additional panicked overthrow following Reyes’ from Aztecs junior right fielder Chase Calabuig then advanced the Gauchos redshirt junior all the way home to finally put UCSB on the board.
Davis then retired SDSU over four at-bats in the top of the sixth, and the Gauchos plated two more runs in the bottom of that inning to even the playing field once again at 3-3.
The second Gaucho scored was Billy Fredrick, who was knocked in on a RBI single from center fielder Tommy Jew. But Fredrick himself got on base due to a fielding error from Trejo, so his run was deemed unearned.
Then, because baseball has its way with being weird, Jew left to steal second in a runners-on-first-and-third scenario with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, and when SDSU catcher Dean Nevarez stood up in his attempt to throw Jew out at second, he hit his own pitcher, Reyes, square in the right cheek of his buttocks (some may argue left cheek to trigger debate) instead. This humorous error deflected the ball toward right field, easily allowing sophomore DH Sam Cohen, who was standing on third, to make his way home.
From here, the score remained tied up at 3-3 until the top of the ninth, in which Trejo took a leadoff strikeout much to his disappointment, causing him to be ejected by the home plate umpire.
Although this could have critically affected SDSU in a crucial tiebreaker situation, Trejo’s ejection did not deter them from putting up two more before the Gauchos final word.
The Aztecs were able to take back the lead with a RBI single up the middle off of UCSB RHP Kevin Chandler (0-1, 5.74 ERA) from Verdon to score Brown, and a sac-fly from Calabuig off of Chandler’s replacement, LHP Steven Ledesma (1-3, 7.99 ERA), to score senior shortstop Danny Sheehan.
Redshirt junior JJ Muno, who is now the teams’ shortstop after the injury to key player Clay Fisher, began the bottom of the ninth with a single to right field to hopefully spark a UCSB comeback. Unfortunately, though, he stood there for the duration of three consecutive fly-outs from Grover, Colton Burns, and Billy Fredrick to officially end the game 5-3, crushing any hopes of heading into tie-breaking extras.
It was a tough game for the ‘Chos as for the first time in their last eight games, they were held under six runs.
The Gauchos offense should take the evening to recuperate because they will be back tomorrow facing off against the Aztec’s authoritative lefty Dominic Purpura who is a perfect 6-0 on the year with a 2.85 ERA.
This kind of intimidation might positively motivate UCSB to improve its mindset at the plate and smack some runs in early in the likely case that the Aztecs have an offensive explosion. In the case of SDSU, some early fielding practice might go a long way for them in this series.
Game two between the Gauchos and the Aztecs takes place at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.