Losing always hurts, but as the UCSB men’s baseball team found out Tuesday against USC, sometimes the manner in which the setback occurs makes it all the more painful.
Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, errors from senior second baseman Chad Peshke, freshman starting pitcher Matt Vasquez and senior shortstop Jeff Bannon proved too much for the Gauchos to overcome. Capitalizing on Santa Barbara’s blunders, USC scored four unearned runs during the inning to down UCSB, 6-4. The setback was the Gauchos’ second loss to Southern Cal this season, and ended Santa Barbara’s six-game winning streak.
“You never like to lose, there is no good way to lose,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “It was disappointing to let it slip away the way we did. But those things happen, and the good teams rebound from them.”
USC got on the board first, scoring two first-inning runs off of Vasquez, one coming on a solo home run from Brian Barra. But Santa Barbara responded quickly, tying the game with two runs of its own in the top of the second. The Gauchos then added a run in the third and fifth innings to take a 4-2 lead.
With the way Vasquez was pitching, it appeared that four runs would be all that UCSB would need. After his early jitters, the freshman turned in another fine performance, throwing 6.2 innings and striking out six, before his defense let him down.
“I was throwing a fastball, change-up and a slider,” Vasquez said. “I was throwing three pitches for strikes this time, whereas last time I only had one. I tried to hit my spots and make them hit groundballs.”
Perhaps most disappointing for UCSB was the disappearing act that its offense pulled against the Trojans. The Gauchos had been leading the nation in batting average, and were in the top 10 nationally in runs scored per game. But none of that mattered to the Trojans’ pitching staff, including Brian Bannister who pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless ball to pick up the win.
Santa Barbara will now head into its conference schedule, beginning with a three-game series against nationally ranked Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos’ Big West schedule promises to be difficult, with games against Northridge and perennial power Long Beach State. But UCSB knows that if it is to make an appearance in the NCAA Regionals, or break into the top 25, it must make its mark in conference play.
“We’re excited to get into conference play,” junior designated hitter Jed Stringham said. “We’re going for the sweep [against Northridge], at least we want to win two out of three. We feel like we have a chance to do some good things this weekend.”