They came, they saw, they came within inches of their season goals.
With a possible Big West championship on the line, the UCSB baseball team came up virtually empty-handed against conference nemesis Cal Poly over the weekend for the final regular season games in the 2001 season at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The Mustangs (30-26, 8-10 in the Big West) stunned the Gauchos (39-15, 12-6) in Friday’s game by nipping the home team, 5-3. Santa Barbara returned to its outstanding consistent play Saturday, taking game two 9-1. Sunday culminated a tough weekend for UCSB and the squad’s 10 departing seniors with the Gauchos’ final ninth-inning rally falling literally inches short in a 3-2 defeat.
After the disappointing series results, UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema brought his squad together in left field telling his players that he was dismayed by the results, but pleased that everyone on the squad left everything on the field.
“I told them to hold their heads up,” Brontsema said. “I think each and every guy gave it their all. They all did their best; sometimes, you don’t get the reward. That’s the way baseball works.”
The weekend wasn’t a total wash, however. Sophomore right fielder Ryan Spilborghs extended his school-record hitting streak to 33 games, and senior southpaw Rylie Ogle joined junior ace James Garcia with 10 wins: Ogle and Garcia became the first Gaucho duo to finish one season with double digit wins. Senior second baseman Chad Peshke smacked his 58th double, a Big West and school record, in UCSB’s lone win.
Garcia started game one against junior hurler Kevin Correia (6-1) and almost immediately struggled with his control.
In the top of the second Garcia walked senior outfielder Phil Thomson and hit sophomore shortstop Scott Anderson – this was the beginning of Garcia’s demise as he went on to hit four batsmen and walked four over the course of 7.2 innings.
Spilborghs continued his hitting streak with a triple in the bottom of the second to drive in senior catcher Donovan Warrecker, who reached base on a walk.
UCSB lost the lead in the fifth, with Garcia plunking Anderson again. Senior infielder Kevin Tillman walked, loading the bases for a two-run single by Kyle Wilson.
Other highlights in the first game included a two-run home run in the eighth from junior left fielder Jed Stringham, his 13th round-tripper of the year, to cut Cal Poly’s lead 5-3.
The Gauchos returned to their dominating form in the second game. Ogle started the second game, which eerily started resembling the first game. Ogle (10-2) walked leadoff batter Scott Sheldon after Ogle marched ahead on a 1-2 count. Anderson then looped a single just inside the right foul line to put runners on first and third with no outs. Sheldon scored when Tillman reached first and Anderson was forced out at second.
Ogle settled down and focused to strike out Kyle Wilson and end the inning, and not allow another run in his six innings of work. Ogle gave up seven hits, one earned run, and struck out three batters.
“He’s throwing quite a bit of pitches lately,” UCSB Pitching Coach Tom Myers said. “He had a tender arm midpoint of the season, and now he’s more cognizant of his pitch counts. If we get the chance at the postseason, we want him to be healthy.”
Santa Barbara raided the scoreboard in the second with three long-anticipated runs. Junior first baseman Tyler Von Schell ripped a stand-up double. Bannon sacrificed Von Schell to second. After Stringham popped out to short, Warrecker slapped a two-out single in the hole to tie the game.
Spilborghs fought for a single to move Warrecker to third and extend his hitting streak to 32 games. Warrecker and Spilborghs completed a double steal, with Warrecker sliding home to give the Gauchos a 2-1 lead. Leadoff sophomore center fielder Skip Schumaker drove in Spilborghs for the final run of the inning.
The fifth inning saw Spilborghs beat out an infield dribbler and nab his second stolen base before senior designated hitter Mike Kolbach drove him in with a single in the middle.
Yet it was in the eighth inning where the Gauchos inflicted the most damage. After Stringham walked, Warrecker singled to put runners on the corners. Spilborghs was safe on a bunt single to load the bases for a sacrifice from Schumaker. Pinch-hitting sophomore Blair Havens blooped an RBI single scoring Warrecker. Peshke hit his record-breaking double to drive in two runners and finish the scoring on the afternoon.
Another notable performance on the evening came when junior middle-reliever Jeremy Sugarman came in and pitched two nearly flawless innings of relief. Sugarman, who got hit hard against UCLA last week, struck out two batters and maintained the tone that Ogle set with his fine performance.
“UCLA was just one of those games,” Myers said. “It’s the same guy pitching for us and a rough outing is not going to affect his confidence. He went in there and did his job.”
The man Sugarman replaced did a fine job gleaning his tenth win of the season, as the only trouble Ogle had was allowing six of seven lead-off batters get on base.
“For some reason, I couldn’t get the first guy out each inning,” Ogle said. “They really didn’t hit the ball hard, [but found a way to get on].”
Ogle was also pleased to be a part of Gaucho history.
“This tenth win [was huge and] I’ve been thinking about it for a while, so I’m glad to get it over with. And I’m happy to get a win that clinches second place for us.”
On Senior Day, the Gauchos sent sophomore Jim Bullard to try to win the series and send the seniors home on a strong note. Yet Mustang senior Jared Blasdall pitched an amazing 8.1 innings of near flawless baseball against the potent UCSB lineup.
Spilborghs smacked a single in the sixth, and Schumaker moved him to second on a bunt sacrifice; Kolbach later drove Spilborghs in on a single.
After Cal Poly built a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Gauchos prepared for one more relay. Dave Molidor hit a stand-up double to begin the rally. Von Schell walked and Bannon hit a single in his last regular season at-bat to load the bases. Stringham sacrificed Molidor home, bringing up pinch-hitting Warreker to the plate with two outs. Warreker launched a hit that looked like it was going to drop in front of the right fielder, only to be caught by a diving Mustang Phil Thomson and end the game.