Some teams have talent, others have heart. Tuesday night at Long Beach, the #25 UCSB baseball team proved it has both.
Using clutch pitching, timely hitting and stellar defense, the Gauchos topped #30 Long Beach State 5-4 in 12 innings. With the non-conference victory, Santa Barbara improved to 33-11, 7-2 in the Big West. The win also supplemented the fact that UCSB is a force to be reckoned with this season.
“[Long Beach] has been a tough place to play throughout the years,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We always have things go against us down there, but we were able to overcome them with outstanding defense and good pitching.”
After both the Gauchos and the 49ers went scoreless in the 10th and 11th innings, Santa Barbara finally broke the 4-4 tie in the 12th. Sophomore center fielder Skip Schumaker began the inning with a single off of Long Beach State reliever Josh Alliston. Schumaker then stole second and advanced to third on a ground out by senior designated hitter Mike Kolbach. Senior second baseman Chad Peshke then came to the plate with a chance to put UCSB on top, but grounded out to second. That left it up to senior third baseman Dave Molidor, and the Gauchos’ leading hitter didn’t disappoint, bouncing a single up the middle for what proved to be the eventual game winner.
“It was just a saw-job, but I’ll take it,” Molidor said. “He threw me a fastball on the first pitch; I fouled it off but I was right on it. I have faced Alliston before so I knew I could hit him. He has a slider and he hangs it. So he threw me a fastball and I just missed it. Then he threw a slider and I fouled that off too. Then he jammed me with a fastball but I got just enough of it to single into center field.”
Junior starting pitcher James Garcia came on in the bottom of the 12th inning to close out LBSU. After giving up a single to start the inning, Garcia retired the next three batters in order to pick up the save. The mid-week appearance for Garcia was unscheduled, but the hurler will still assume his normal spot in this weekend’s rotation.
“We’d been talking about [using Garcia in relief] since the beginning of the season,” UCSB Pitching Coach Tom Myers said. “[Garcia] is one of those guys that bounces back quickly. He’s a bulldog and a physically strong kid.”
However, Garcia and Molidor never would have gotten a chance to secure the win for UCSB without the help of Peshke in the bottom of the 11th. After retiring the first batter, senior Jamie Gonzales plunked LBSU’s Todd Jennings, and then followed that up by issuing a walk to Corry Parrott. Peshke then saved the day, diving to catch a line drive off the bat of Edgar Barela. Peshke, on his knees, then slapped his glove on second base to complete the double play, and send the game into the 12th inning.
“It was a great play, especially considering what was at stake,” Brontsema said. “It was kind of a quail off the end of the bat that looked like it was going to fall, but Chad came out of nowhere to come up with the ball. Then he had the presence of mind to double up the guy at second.”
Tuesday’s match-up only served as a precursor for this weekend. Santa Barbara will host LBSU this weekend in a three-game series. With little separating these two teams, the series promises to be just as competitive as the extra-inning thriller Tuesday night.
“I expect three pitchers’ duels this weekend,” Myers said. “On my side, I hope we see that. We will need to play good defense because they’re a well-coached team. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”