In order for the UCSB baseball team’s trip to Las Vegas to pay off, it had to beat the odds by drawing a few aces and dealing a straight of big hits.
The Gauchos came back from a first game loss to Michigan State to win the next two at the Rebel Invitational in Las Vegas last weekend, procuring the rare honor of leaving Sin City ahead in the win column.
After busting against MSU on Friday, Santa Barbara roared back to spank Creighton with an offensive eruption to even its winnings. The Gauchos then parlayed that win the next day against host UNLV to win on a sensational pitching effort from sophomore pitcher Matt Vasquez .
UCSB quickly fell behind Friday when the high-rolling Spartans scored seven runs on starter senior James Garcia after five innings.
Unphased, the Gauchos showed they belonged in Vegas with their characteristic fixation on winning. Back-to-back doubles from seniors Andy Campanella and Dave Licht followed by a home run from junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs tied the game at 6-6 in the third inning.
“This is a young team that just doesn’t know when to quit,” junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs said
The game was knotted 9-9 in the eighth when UCSB surrendered ten runs, giving freshman Mike Sutherland (0-1) the loss in relief. Although the Gauchos scored five more runs, they could not surmount MSU’s lead, losing a wild 19-14 shoot out.
The next day, Santa Barbara looked like it would continue its losing streak when it fell behind 7-1 to Creighton after the fifth inning. But UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema knew that despite being down the Gauchos were never out.
“When we’re good, we’re good. And when we’re bad, we’re bad,” Brontsema said. “This team rides momentum waves that are set by the pitching.”
Needing some good pitching, Brontsema rolled the dice and brought in junior Kevin Miller (2-0), who kept Michigan at bay the day before, yielding four runs in 5.2 innings of work.
“Miller quieted their bats,” Brontsema said. “He put up zeros and we rode that momentum.”
The Gauchos used Miller’s spark to become red-hot, hitting the jackpot in an unforgettable fifth inning in which UCSB scored 12 runs on four homers.
It was an offensive explosion that was good to see,” Spilborghs said. “Everybody hit the ball hard.”
The Gauchos didn’t quit once they got ahead, scoring 23 runs on 25 hits in all, winning handily by 13 runs.
Santa Barbara showed that it had one more ace up its sleeve the following day when Vasquez, an All-American, took the mound to deal with UNLV.
Vasquez (3-1) had a two-hitter through 8.2 innings in his third consecutive dominating performance, a streak in which he has given up a paltry three runs in 23.2 innings of work.
“I was using everything, locating my fastball while mixing in other pitches,” Vasquez said. “I was feeling strong.”
Although Vasquez was caught in a pitcher’s duel in a 0-0 game through four innings, the Gauchos broke things open in the fifth when Campanella singled to score junior Nic Rodriguez, putting UCSB up 2-0. After UNVL tied the score at two, Licht then singled home sophomore Nate Sutton in the eighth for the winning run.