Pardon the expression, but as ESPN’s Dan Patrick used to say, the UCSB baseball team is “en fuego.”
The Gauchos continued their sizzling play of late Wednesday afternoon against Westmont, crushing the Warriors, 9-0. Santa Barbara, scoring four unearned runs in the game, took advantage of multiple Westmont errors. UCSB has now won 11 of its last 12 games, improving to 22-8 on the season. The Gauchos also own sole position of first place in the competitive Big West conference because of their best start since 1990.
“I think we’re starting to come together,” senior shortstop Jeff Bannon said. “Our pitching and defense has starting coming around lately and is making a difference in games. The difference between this year and last year is that our pitching has more depth and the team has more maturity.”
In the first inning, UCSB made the Warriors pay for an early throwing error to take a 1-0 lead. Senior second baseman Chad Peshke then brought the pain to start the top of the third inning, blasting a home run over the center field fence.
“It was a 3-1 count, so I was looking for a fastball [on the home run],” Peshke said. “I wasn’t thinking home run, but I figured a fastball was coming, and I got it.”
The Gauchos followed the Peshke bomb with two walks and two singles, eventually going up, 4-0. Santa Barbara then scored a run in the fourth inning and added another in the fifth off of Westmont starter Kevin Whiter. In the sixth inning, UCSB capitalized on back-to-back Warrior errors, scoring three unearned runs for the final margin.
Westmont could only scrape together five hits in six innings off of Gaucho starter, freshman Matt Vasquez. The Warriors did threaten to score in the bottom of the second and fifth innings, leading off each with a double. But Vasquez recovered both times, ending Westmont’s scoring hopes.
“I was just looking to throw strikes out there today,” Vasquez said. “[Westmont] is a good team. I used a slider and a fastball mostly today. I only threw one change-up, and that didn’t go so well.”
After Vasquez hit the showers, three Gaucho relievers combined to hold the Warriors scoreless over the final three innings.
Next up for the Gauchos is a three-game home series with Riverside before heading to Los Angeles for a game against USC. Santa Barbara has only four games left before Big West play begins, and UCSB wants to enter conference play on a high note.
“We’re on a roll right now,” Bannon said. “We’d just like to keep rolling. Riverside is going to join the Big West next year, and we’d like to show them just what Big West baseball is all about.”