Homer’s epic The Iliad recounts the defeat of the Spartans in the battle of Troy. In the battle of Isla Vista, the Gauchos defeated the Spartans with some epic Homers of their own.
UCSB stormed back from a heartbreaking opening-game loss to triumph in the next two games, capturing a series win against visiting San Jose State last weekend. The Gauchos prevailed by using a combination of strong pitching and even stronger hitting, including some timely home runs, to win their second consecutive series.
“Anytime you can win a series against a good club, it’s a great feeling,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Coming back to win after losing the first game means you have a good pitching staff.”
UCSB (7-4) had some of its best pitching on Friday when senior All-American pitcher James Garcia returned to last season’s dominating form, striking out seven and giving up just two runs in 7.2 innings of work.
Garcia’s no-hitter through five innings was broken up by a Spartan home run that was promptly answered in the seventh inning when junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs blasted his second dinger of the season to knot the score at 1-1.
That was the only run the Gauchos could muster after San Jose squeezed another run out of Garcia in the eighth beating UCSB in a frustrating 2-1 game.
The Gauchos retaliated the next day when they fired up their offense and torched San Jose for nine runs. Although the starting pitcher, junior James Dayley, gave up five runs in as many innings during his first difficult outing of the season, the Gaucho offense matched San Jose run for run. Senior shortstop Dave Licht trucked a two-run homer in the third, his first of the season.
Freshman first baseman Chris Malec sparked a four-run eighth with his third home run of the season, a monster shot to right that brought in three runs.
In the top of the ninth, the closing pitcher, senior Matt Moran, gave up three runs, allowing the pesky Spartans to make things interesting before junior pitcher Jared Edrosolan was brought in to get the last two outs in what turned out to be a 9-8 thriller.
Senior Jeremy Sugarman (1-0) pitched three scoreless innings to get to the eighth to get the win, which roused the Gauchos.
“Malec’s home run was huge,” Spilborghs said after game two. “We’re going to win the series.”
In the rubber match, sophomore Matt Vasquez (2-1) fulfilled Spilly’s prophesy by pitching seven quality innings en route to his second consecutive win. Vasquez surrendered just one earned run, the first in his last 15 innings of work.
“Vasquez has found his groove,” Brontsema said. “The future is bright for him.”
The UCSB offense was lackadaisical, down 2-0 in the fourth after freshman outfielder C.J. Cook misjudged a high-hanging fly ball in the swirling winds, committing the Gauchos’ only error of the series in his first start.
“I told Vasquez I’d make it up to him,” said Cook. “Sure enough, I did.”
Cook atoned for his miscue in the bottom of the same inning when he blasted a three-run homer into orbit for his first collegiate hit, gaining immediate redemption in dramatic fashion. UCSB tacked on a few security runs on sacrifice flies from Licht and designated hitter freshman Matt Wilkerson and won 6-3.
“Our pitchers came up big and our team came together this weekend,” Malec said. “We were getting the key hits.”
UCSB looks to keep rolling against visiting Cal State Northridge today at 2 p.m.