The #25 UCSB baseball team had hoped to do some spring cleaning this weekend with Long Beach State in town. But after winning the first two games against LBSU, the Gauchos’ brooms didn’t leave the closet Sunday.
Santa Barbara (35-12, 9-3 in the Big West) pounded out 10 hits, including three home runs in game one, ripping the Dirtbags, 11-4. UCSB then ran its winning streak to seven games with a hard fought 5-4 win Saturday, before falling Sunday, 10-4. With the series victory, the Gauchos moved into second place in the Big West, only trailing #6 Fullerton. Although UCSB is happy with the series win, the club is disappointed that it couldn’t complete the sweep.
“Taking two out of three looks good on Thursday [before the series starts],” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “It doesn’t look too good on Sunday after winning the first two. [LBSU] is a good team, and they just got more big hits [Sunday].”
The Gauchos fell behind Friday early in game one, as LBSU notched two runs in the third inning to take a 2-0 lead.
After being sent down in order during the first three innings, UCSB finally broke through in the fourth for its first run of the game. Sophomore center fielder Skip Schumaker started the Santa Barbara rally, leading off the inning with a double. Senior designated hitter Mike Kolbach moved him over to third with a ground out, and senior second baseman Chad Peshke drove him in with a groundball of his own.
“Schumaker gets us started,” Brontsema said. “He always gets us going. He doubled and then Kolbach moved him over, and then Peshke drove him in. When you play a good team, that’s what you have to do. That’s what got us going.”
Senior shortstop Jeff Bannon tied the game in the fifth inning with his fifth dinger of the season, a solo shot. The Gauchos’ offense finally found its stroke in the sixth, scoring four runs, three coming on a round tripper from junior left fielder Jed Stringham.
The onslaught continued in the seventh, as UCSB scored five more runs to take an 11-2 lead. Junior first baseman Tyler Von Schell got in on the long-ball action with a three-run shot of his own, tying the team record of 17 in one season.
“It’s awesome,” Von Schell said of tying the record. “We know we have to play well to beat these guys. I feel that if I play well against these guys we’re going to win.”
Junior starter James Garcia picked up the win for UCSB, improving to 9-1 on the season. The junior-college transfer gave up only two earned runs in nine innings, while striking out four.
“[Garcia] was erratic at the start,” Brontsema said. “He didn’t have the command he usually does. He can pitch bad and still get away with it, and he made the good pitches when he had to.”
Game two was a classic Big West duel, and for most of the game it appeared that UCSB couldn’t solve Long Beach pitcher Nate Beucler. The righty allowed only two runs through five innings, and pitched with confidence against the talented Gaucho lineup. But Santa Barbara finally broke through in the seventh inning, scoring three runs to take a 5-4 lead.
Senior closer Jamie Gonzales finished off the Dirtbags in the ninth inning with a dominating performance. Gonzales recorded two strikeouts and retired LBSU on only nine pitches.
“[Gonzales] was definitely pumped,” Brontsema said. “He was coming out and throwing hard. When he throws his breaking ball like that, he’s fun to watch.”
After giving up three first-inning runs, senior starter Rylie Ogle settled down to shut out Long Beach for the next five innings. Although Ogle was stuck with a no-decision, the former Dirtbag was pleased with the way he battled.
“I didn’t really have my ‘A’ stuff,” Ogle said. “I just did what I could to keep us in the game. I didn’t come out the way I should have, but I made good pitches when I had to. I wasn’t happy with coming out [after the sixth inning], but looking back it was the right thing to do.”
Santa Barbara was looking to bring out the brooms Sunday, but two big innings from LBSU led to the Gauchos’ demise. With the game tied at one heading into the fourth inning, LBSU scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead. The fifth inning was just as unkind to UCSB, as the first six Dirtbags reached base, leading to a six-run explosion. UCSB could only muster two runs the rest of the way, dropping the final game of the series.
Although UCSB failed to complete the sweep, it finished the week taking three of four games from the Dirtbags.
“It was a good week,” Kolbach said. “Obviously I’m disappointed with the loss. We did take two out of three this weekend and put ourselves in good position [in the Big West]. Now we’ve got to get ready for next week.”