A big hit by freshman Drew Williams might have just saved the UCSB baseball team’s season as his go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning did just enough to push the home team past the visiting Titans 6-5 and even the series up.
“Regardless of the score, we needed to come back and play good quality baseball today after the series opener, and we did that,” said UCSB assistant coach Eddie Cornejo. “Drew has had minimal opportunities so far as a freshman, but he’s put together good, competitive at-bats and we felt like he had a good chance against Conine there.”
Santa Barbara is now 10-12-1 on the season and 1-1 in the Big West with a big opportunity to steal the series from CSUF who it has not beaten in a best of three series since 2014. With the loss, the Titans fall to 10-14-1 and also 1-1 in conference play.
UCSB held the advantage for most of the afternoon jumping out to a very early 3-0 lead and even holding suit with a 5-2 but Fullerton just kept whittling away.
The Gauchos put pressure on early, with Andrew Martinez leading off the bottom off the first with his team-leading fourth home run of the season and then Armani Smith shooting a two-run double into right-center to stretch UCSB’s lead to 3-0 in the second.
CSUF’s Ruben Cardenas was plunked by a pitch with one out in the third, then Cope singled to left to give the Titans a scoring threat, with runners at first and second and just one out.
Tyler Lasch then grounded out, but the runners advanced to second and third. Pavletich then came through with his biggest knock of the day, as he placed one perfectly in left center for a two-RBI single to make it just a 3-2 deficit.
Junior shortstop Clay Fisher would add to that lead with an RBI triple in the fifth to give themselves a bit of distance with the lead now being 4-2. Sophomore center fielder Tommy Jew would push the lead up an extra run with an RBI single in the top of the seventh.
Eventually, the Titans would catch the Gauchos after a two-run eighth inning tied the score up at 5-5. With that, CSUF looked like it had all the momentum going its way.
However, Williams came through with the biggest hit of his young career, against one of the top closers in the country no less, to re-establish the lead for UCSB.
His seeing-eye base hit back through the middle brought across junior right fielder Michael McAdoo, who put the Gauchos in business by ripping a one-out double into the left-center field gap.
That one run proved to be enough for UCSB sophomore right-hander Shea Barry, who bounced back from a shaky eighth inning by rolling up three consecutive routine ground balls in the top of the ninth to seal the win.
With the win, Santa Barbara now has the chance to go for the series win and pick up a much-needed victory against one of the Big West’s most consistent baseball programs. Despite this being a down year for CSUF no one could doubt the importance of this series tomorrow.
UCSB concludes its three-game series tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.