The #20 UCSB baseball team wasn’t about to let UCLA slip away this time.
After dropping a 6-5, 14-inning decision to the Bruins earlier this year, the Gauchos made amends Tuesday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Santa Barbara (38-13) pounded out 15 hits, leading to runs and a 10-4 nonconference victory.
“These guys have been good at handling the task at hand,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “They’ve done a good job at being focused. They kept that going today.”
After freshman starter Matt Vasquez sent UCLA down in order in the top of the first, the UCSB offense went to work in the bottom of the inning. Senior designated hitter Mike Kolbach got things going for the Gauchos, reaching on a single. Kolbach then advanced to third on a double from second baseman Chad Peshke and came around to score on senior third baseman Dave Molidor’s groundout.
Santa Barbara added to its lead in the bottom of the third, going up 2-0. Sophomore Ryan Spilborghs led off the inning with a single, extending his hitting streak to a school-record 30 games. After a single from sophomore center fielder Skip Schumaker, Spilborghs advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Kolbach and scored on a Peshke sacrifice fly.
UCLA knotted the game at 2-2 in the fourth inning, as Bruin left fielder John Campanella ripped a 3-2 pitch over the left-field fence. But the full-count pitch was the only mistake Vasquez would make all day. The freshman hurler threw seven solid innings, giving up only two runs on three hits.
“[UCLA] has a good lineup with strong hitters,” Vasquez said. “I was just trying to go after them and make them put the ball in play. That’s what I try to do every day.”
While Vasquez was modest in his appraisal of his performance, Brontsema was quick to heap praise on the righty.
“He’s our future,” Brontsema said of Vasquez. “The fact that he has come along like he has and like we had hoped bodes well for us down the road this year and throughout his career.”
UCSB quickly answered the Campanella blast with two runs of its own in the bottom of the fourth. After senior shortstop Jeff Bannon struck out, junior left fielder Jed Stringham and senior catcher Donovan Warrecker both reached on singles. Spilborghs then loaded the bases with a walk. With the sacks full, Schumaker came to the plate and bounced a grounder toward UCLA second baseman Randall Shelley. Shelly cut down Spilborghs at second, but the Bruin’s attempt to turn two went awry, as shortstop Josh Canales’ throw to first rolled into the UCLA dugout. Both Stringham and Warrecker scored on the errant toss, giving UCSB a 4-2 lead.
Both teams went scoreless in the fifth and sixth, before Santa Barbara exploded for six runs in the seventh inning. The big blow was delivered by Molidor, who bombed a three-run jack well over the center-field fence, 400 feet away.
“I was coming off of a frustrating weekend against Fullerton,” Molidor said. “To come out here and play the way we did and to contribute the way I did, felt good.”
Junior first baseman Tyler Von Schell followed the Molidor blast with a solo shot of his own for back-to-back round-trippers. The homer was Von Schell’s 18th of the year, breaking the team record.
“It’s not really a big deal,” Von Schell said of breaking the record. “I thought 17 was cooler – I didn’t worry after that. Anything on top of 17 is just a bonus.”
UCLA notched two runs in the top of the eighth inning, before senior closer Jamie Gonzales finished the Bruins off in the ninth.
Next up for the Gauchos is a three-game series with Cal Poly. UCSB is still in the hunt for the Big West title and will be looking to take all three games from the Mustangs.
“We need a sweep,” Molidor said. “We’re not going to settle for two out of three. Anything less than a sweep would be disappointing.”