After 11 innings of a back and forth battle, the UCSB baseball team lost 8-7 in heartbreaking fashion against UC Riverside after left-handed relief pitcher Steven Ledesma (1-4, 6.10 ERA), dropped a pop fly in a bases loaded, two out situation.
This was a hard fought and an upsetting loss for the Gauchos. The road team came out hot and got ahead early in the game, but fell behind by the end of the third inning to trail the Highlanders until the eighth when the Gauchos then rallied by scoring two to tie it up 7-7 and sent it into extras after a scoreless ninth from both dugouts.
UCSB now has a conference record of 4-6 and an overall record that stands at 18-21, no longer giving the Gauchos the chance they had while sitting at 18-20 to get back to .500 by the end of this weekend’s three-game series. UCR’s victory promotes them to 15-22 overall and a record of 3-10 in the Big West.
Scoring opened right away in the top of the first when UCSB senior left-fielder Billy Fredrick went yard to hit the scoreboard in right-center for his first homer of the year.
Gauchos starting left-handed pitcher Kyle Nelson (5-3, 4.57 ERA) then swiftly retired the one, two, and three-spot hitters in Riverside’s lineup for a speedy three-up-three-down frame.
Ahead 1-0, Santa Barbara extended its lead to make it 3-0 in the top of the second. Redshirt junior Kenny Corey singled to right and redshirt freshman Tommy Jew moved him over to third by ripping a double down the left field line. With no outs, redshirt junior JJ Muno roped a single to plate both Corey and Jew but was thrown out by Riverside left fielder AJ Sawyer when attempting to advance to second base.
The Highlanders then immediately got their second and third outs from the two following Gauchos to end the top of the second and decided to answer back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.
UCR second baseman Cody Sporrer got up with two outs and smacked a three-run blast off of Nelson down the left field line. The junior took a trip around the bases and scored teammates sophomore Matt Hardy and freshman Connor Cannon for an even score of 3-3.
However, UCSB monster hitter Austin Bush was not going to let the score remain tied for long. Junior second baseman Colton Burns placed himself on first with a single up the middle, and Bush, junior first baseman as well as the Gauchos slugging percentage leader, recorded his tenth homer of the season and put Santa Barbara backup 5-3 in the top of the third.
To make the game even more interesting and competitive, Riverside’s bats did not stay quiet either in their offensive half of the inning as they brought in three runs off of three hits to lead UCSB 6-5.
Nelson walked Shultz and advanced him to second on a pitch that hit Sawyer. After putting runners on first and second, Nelson then allowed three RBI singles from UCR third baseman Michael Farris, first baseman Cade Peters, and designated hitter Cannon. Nelson was subsequently pulled from the mound at this point and replaced by RHP Kevin Chandler (0-1, 4.95 ERA), who struck out the final two batters to end the third inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Highlanders put up one more with a sac-fly from Peters that brought in senior center fielder Mark Contreras to make it 7-5.
The Gauchos offense created only two hits and zero runs after their third inning at-bats, but they finally grew tired of their silence at the plate as they roared back with a late offensive surge to the top of the eighth. UCSB had four hits: a single to right from Bush, a single up the middle from sophomore DH Sam Cohen, a RBI single from Jew, and another RBI single from Muno. These scored two more for the ‘Chos to tie it again at 7-7.
Ledesma, who replaced Chandler in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, fanned Cannon and Hardy and retired Sporrer with a fly-out to left in the bottom of the eighth to keep the score 7-7. He struggled a bit more in the bottom of ninth, giving up two walks but leaving those two Highlanders on base with two more strikeouts and another fly-out. In the tenth, he gave up two hits but still kept UCR from reaching home plate. And in the bottom of the eleventh, the allowance of a hit, two more walks, and a devastating error led to a walk-off win for the Highlanders.
He struggled a bit more in the bottom of ninth, giving up two walks but leaving those two Highlanders on base with two more strikeouts and another fly-out. In the tenth, he gave up two hits but still kept UCR from reaching home plate. And in the bottom of the eleventh, the allowance of a hit, two more walks, and a devastating error led to a walk-off win for the Highlanders.
Riverside’s fourth pitcher of the day, Angel Landazuri (3-3, 6.75 ERA), came in at the top of the ninth before heading into tie-breaking extras, but he only allowed one hit from the Gauchos offense to help UC Riverside seal the win.
Friday night’s game was a long and exhausting challenge in which UCSB did not come out triumphant, but there should be two more compelling matches by the looks of this one. The sequel to this baseball saga will continue Saturday night at 6 p.m.