Two outs, bases loaded, tie game. It is every little leaguer’s dream, and this weekend, UCSB first baseman Josh McCanne lived it to the fullest.
The Gauchos were only able to take one of their three games this weekend in their season opening series against Loyola Marymount, but the one they did take was memorable, as McCanne bashed a game-winning grand slam on Friday to down LMU 8-4. The victory was particularly impressive, considering that the Gauchos were coming off of an opening day loss in which All-American starting pitcher James Garcia had given up five runs in six plus innings. Unfortunately, the team was unable to build any positive momentum from McCanne’s blast, as they fell 7-5 on Saturday to lower their record to 1-2 on the season.
“We have a ways to go to get where we want to be, UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We made a lot of adjustments, but we let the game go on Saturday when we really could have won. Overall, we did get better over the weekend. Obviously, we’re never happy with losing, but we did improve in a lot of areas.”
The team’s offense had looked inept in an opening day shutout, but it rebounded on Friday, sparked by freshman second baseman Chris Malec, who scored a second-inning run and then drove in two more in the third. Pitchers James Dayley and Sean Thompson combined to hold the Lions to two runs through seven innings, and the Gauchos were able to extend their lead to 4-2 on a tremendous Matt Wilkerson home run.
However, the Lions were able to rally with two runs to tie the game in the eighth, setting the stage for McCanne’s final frame heroics. The Gauchos had a runner on third with two outs, and LMU elected to intentionally walk both Ryan Spilborghs and Wilkerson to load the bases. McCanne made them pay for that decision, crushing his first home run of the year and ending the game. The game would have been called for darkness had the Gauchos not scored in the ninth, but fortunately McCanne brought a light that blinded the Lions with one swing
Sadly, the Gauchos were not able to build on their dramatic Friday victory, as the Lions rushed out to an early 6-2 lead on Saturday and were able to hold off Santa Barbara to claim supremacy for the weekend series.
“We didn’t pitch as well on Saturday,” Brontsema said. “The series had two very similar teams, but Loyola got a couple of big hits. We walked too many batters and gave them too many extra opportunities.”
On Saturday, the Gauchos started Matt Vasquez, a returnee who had been a freshman All-American selection last year. However, Vasquez struggled, giving up six runs on eight hits and five walks in only four-plus innings. UCSB was relentless in its comeback attempt, as Wilkerson hit his second home run of the weekend and Spilborghs was able to parlay an eighth-inning double into a run that closed the gap to 6-5. However, LMU tacked on an insurance run in the ninth, and their stopper, Randy Waite, retired the Gauchos in order in the ninth to end the weekend.
“We’ll score runs,” Brontsema said, “But our execution needs to get better.”
The Gauchos had a day off on Sunday, but will resume play on Monday with a home game against BYU at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.