Due to forecasted rain that would eventually never come Sunday afternoon, the UCSB baseball team was forced to switch its schedule and play a double header Saturday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium against the UC Davis Aggies.
With a chance to win the series after a 6-3 win Friday, all the Gauchos needed was a victory Saturday afternoon to clinch the series.
However, with double the opportunity came double the disappointment. The Gauchos would lose the first game of the double header by a score of 3-2 and in the second game would lose the series to Davis via 2-0 shutout. With the two losses the Gauchos fall to 20-24 overall in the season while the UC Davis Aggies would improve their Big West worst overall record to 15-26.
First the positive: The Gauchos starting pitchers were lights out against UC Davis. In the first game of the day, RHP Chris Clements pitched phenomenally for UCSB. Clements would do a fantastic job establishing pitches on the inside part of the plate to the primarily right-handed hitting line-up. Through the first five, Clements was cruising.
As heartless baseball is sometimes, his hard work through those innings would be somewhat tarnished with a rough top of the sixth. Still, although giving up four consecutive two out hits to Aggie hitters that would allow three earned runs, Clements stuff and command wise looked the best it has been in a while.
In the sixth, the Aggie hitters caught on to the first pitch fastball pattern Clements was falling into and took advantage of it. Clements would eventually get the loss by giving up three earned runs off nine hits, but would finish with six innings pitched while striking out five. Without that last inning, Clements would have pitched a gem.
In the second game, true freshman Chris Lincoln looked like a future Gaucho ace after settling down from a shaky third inning in which he gave up two runs. The former 13th round pick for the Cleveland Indians in last year’s draft, had scary big league stuff on the mound. Lincoln’s fastball was electric as usually, but his slider and change up were simply something to truly marvel at.
The only thing holding the 6’4, 175 lb. freshman back are control issues with the fastball and slider. Lincoln’s stuff plays so well at a Division 1 level though, that on days where he does not have his control, he is still dominant which he let all see Saturday in his start. Lincoln would have his longest outing of the season in his second start Saturday, going five IP, with six Ks and two ER.
Another thing to not ignore, the bullpen did a great job shutting down UC Davis as well. In the double header, bullpen relief threw seven innings of scoreless baseball. Stephen Ledesma had one inning that could have been a disaster, but he kept his composure and got out of the jam. Ledesma would do more than asked by striking out four through three innings only giving up one hit.
On the offensive side, Sam Cohen was the bright spot in game one of the double header. Although going 0 for 3 in the second game, Cohen would go 2 for 2 with a majestic, high towering solo shot to right in game one of the double header, game two of the series. Cohen now has seven homers on the year.
Now the negative: without sugar coating it, the Gauchos simply could not hit Saturday in both contests. The UCSB Offense has been strong through the majority of the season, with having an impressive .278 team batting average (2nd best in the Big West Conference) coming into yesterday’s double-header.
Still, with the offense doing as well as it has been, UCSB bats did not show up. Due to an abandonment of their opposite-field, watch the off-speed deep approach, the Gaucho bats were sat down all day long. When the ball was hit the other way, it was weakly hit which is something not seen to often from UCSB.
UC Davis starters, RHP Justin Mullins and LHP Robert Garcia pecked away on the outside part of the plate all day long to UCSB with great control. Gaucho hitters could not make the adjustment though. Against Mullins in the first game of the double header, the Gauchos would strike out four times while collecting six hits, all singles but the Sam Cohen home run. Mullins final bylines would be 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB while improving to 2-3 on the year.
Lefty Garcia, who is a candidate for Big West Pitcher of the Week, threw a complete game shutout while striking out 11 UCSB batters. Even though UCSB Head Coach Andrew Checketts threw in a righty line up to face the lefty, the Gauchos could not figure out the Aggie game two starter. Garcia’s off-speed had sliding movement with 12 to 6 action, which, when paired with pinpoint fastball control, had Gauchos guessing, lunging, and out in front all game long. Garcia, now 2-5 this season, only gave up two hits to Gauchos.
At the conclusion of the double header, Coach Checketts commented on the day. “It looked like it wasn’t going to be an easy day to hit from the get go. The wind was howling in, unless you hit it in that kind of window in right field, it had a chance to blow.”
On Garcia, Checketts tipped his cap. “I think their guy did a nice job and we didn’t do a good job enough of adjusting.” Checketts continued, “Their guy (Garcia) filled up the strike zone the second game. We had some chances but really couldn’t deliver any kind of blow, but our pitchers did a nice job of keeping us in there.”
After this series loss, UCSB baseball is 6-9 in the Big West conference. Officially, the Gauchos will not have a chance to make a run for another run for a college World Series appearance. Although the 2017 season has been a disappointing one for Santa Barbara baseball fans, the future does look bright for the Gauchos.
Freshman stars such as Armani Smith, Tommy Jew, Shea Barry, and Chris Lincoln have shown sky high potential this year. Moving forward, expect Andrew Checketts to start experimenting more with younger players and the line up to see where guys will fit next season.
UCSB baseball now has just 12 games left on the schedule: eight away games, four home games. Tuesday, the ‘Chos will head to St. Mary’s to face the Gales at 3 p.m.