Over the course of a season, a team will sometimes find that its greatest foe is itself.
That foe is exactly what the UCSB baseball team encountered on Tuesday.
The Gauchos proved to be their own greatest enemy in a frustrating loss to Cal State Northridge on Tuesday, struggling defensively against a club they pummeled 16-8 just a week earlier.
Santa Barbara gave up nine runs, three of them earned, committed six errors, walked six batters, hit two and left seven runners stranded on base in a self-defeating effort. The Gauchos (7-5) fell a game behind Northridge in Big West standings and played nothing like the team that had just won a weekend series in which it committed only one error.
UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema felt the real disappointment was the mental errors that kept Santa Barbara from dealing the Matadors another loss.
“We had a bad mental approach and a lack of communication,” Brontsema said. “The errors didn’t kill us, it was the lack of execution.”
Although the Gauchos had two errors in the first two innings, they were executing well in what looked to be an offensive showdown. Freshman designated hitter Matt Wilkerson and freshmen second baseman Chris Malec hit back-to-back home runs to put the Gauchos up 2-1 after the second frame.
UCSB quickly unraveled in the top of the third inning, committing three of its season-high six errors and giving up seven runs to fall behind 8-2. Starter Jeremy Sugarman (1-1) received the loss after allowing five hits and three earned runs in just 2.1 innings of work. Freshman Eric Posthumus came in to relieve Sugarman, but could only get one out as Northridge scored three more runs in the torturous inning. Finally, freshman southpaw Mike Sutherland was brought in to get the last out.
Despite the disastrous inning, the Gauchos showed the grit that has kept them in virtually every game this season.
“We could have buried our heads and they would have buried us further,” Brontsema said. “But we kept on fighting.”
Sutherland provided one of the lone bright spots for UCSB, pitching 3 and 2/3 scoreless innings, giving the Gauchos a chance to comeback.
“At least while I was out there, we played good defense,” Sutherland said. “And the offense chipped away at the lead to keep the game close.”
While Sutherland blanked the Northridge offense, the Santa Barbara bats slowly started to catch fire.
Junior catcher Nic Rodriguez’s single scored junior first baseman Josh McCanne and senior shortstop Dave Licht roped a two RBI double to cap a fifth inning rally in which the Gauchos cut the gap to 8-5.
UCSB added another run in the seventh when junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs lined a single to score senior left fielder RJ Smith.
The stage was set for a dramatic finish in the bottom of the eighth after a RBI single by senior center fielder Andy Campanella loaded the bases with the Gauchos down 9-7. But UCSB failed to capitalize, capping a game filled with frustration.
“Northridge is a really good club,” Brontsema said. “But if we had executed better, we would have won.”