For what seems like a recurring theme throughout the play of this season, the UCSB baseball team has blown many leads ranging from one or two runs, to as many as five or six runs, costing them quality wins.
Saturday afternoon felt as though that trend would continue after a five-run seventh inning from SDSU erased UCSB’s 5-0 lead and tied the game up.
However, just as the Gauchos play has improved over their last nine games, so too has their confidence as a big RBI single from Austin Bush in the bottom half of the same seventh inning proved to be the deciding run in a very entertaining 6-5 win for the ‘Chos.
The victory pushes Santa Barbara one step forward to a .500 record as it is now 17-19 on the year with a chance to take a series in a rubber match on Sunday from a very strong San Deigo State team, who even with the loss still boasts a strong 28-12 overall record.
Over the last nine games, the Gauchos have failed to score at least six runs only once and over that span, they have gone a solid 6-3. The game plan over the last nine games seems to be similar: get an early lead, get a strong performance from the starting pitcher, and hope the bullpen does just enough to hold onto the victory.
UCSB executed part one of that plan scoring runs in the second, fourth and sixth to eventually build up an impressive 5-0 lead despite facing one of the hottest pitchers on the SDSU roster in Dominic Purpura who boasted a 2.85 ERA coming into the evening and a 6-0 record.
The scoring began in the bottom of the second after a home run from redshirt junior Dempsey Grover made the score 1-0. That would be the catchers only hit for the evening, but he now extends his hitting streak to five games.
Runs continued to flow for the home team in the bottom of the fourth as a Sam Cohen RBI single and a Tommy Jew RBI triple added two scores to make a 3-0 lead. Two more one-run singles in the bottom of the sixth helped the Gauchos build a very comfortable lead.
Through six innings, junior left-handed pitcher Kyle Nelson was absolutely sensational allowing just two hits and no earned runs.
That all changed in the top of the seventh inning as the Aztecs rallied putting together a five-hit, five-run inning to tie the game. The rally began with a one-out single, and then a double to have runners on second and third.
After getting an out, Nelson looked as though he would be able to work his way around the inning. Unfortunately, the junior the gave up two-RBI singles to make the score 5-2. With two outs and runners on first and second, senior infielder Danny Sheeran lifted a three-run shot to left field tying the game at five.
Instead of pouting, instead of complaining, instead of giving in, the Gauchos rallied behind their junior pitcher and lifted him and the rest of the team up. The bottom of the seventh began with a single from junior Colton Burns who advanced to second on a bunt by senior outfielder Billy Fredrick.
Big junior first baseman Austin Bush then came to the plate with two outs and delivered a big RBI single to through the left side scoring what would become the winning run. That also put Nelson in line for the win, which he got, and is now 5-3 on the year.
Over the final two innings, freshman pitcher Shea Barry made quick work of the Aztecs to secure not only his second save of the year but the 17th win for his team on the campaign. The right-hander finished allowing only two hits and one walk.
It was certainly a solid performance by the home team to be able to stay in control of themselves and be able to rally behind their teammates to secure a victory.
In a season that has had more heartbreaking losses than one team should be used too, it was a good sign that the Gauchos still have the heart needed to pull out these close one-run games just as they did last year.
The rubber match between SDSU and UCSB concludes the series at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 23 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Jorge Mercado is the current Editor in Chief and was a Sports Editor before that since freshman year. He prefers to be called Merk as that was his nickname given to him by the gods. Sometimes, his evil twin Mork appears. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.