The UCSB baseball team had been hoping to ride the Waves to victory this weekend. Instead, it got caught in an undertow.
The Gauchos (10-9) dropped two home games this weekend to lose a three-game series to Pepperdine (10-11). The only win Santa Barbara was able to secure was a 3-2 victory at Eddy D. Field Stadium in Malibu, thanks to strong pitching efforts by sophomore Matt Vasquez and senior James Garcia, and a timely two-run single by junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs.
Unfortunately for the Gauchos, these were about the only instances of good pitching and clutch hitting the team saw all weekend, as UCSB dropped the first and third games of the series by scores of 8-4 and 13-11.
“We’re not pitching well,” USCB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “That’s been the story all year. We’ve been alright on defense and we’re scoring some runs, but the pitching hasn’t been what we thought it would be.”
With Garcia – the team’s incumbent No. 1 starter – in the bullpen, junior pitcher James Dayley (1-1) started the series opener on Friday, to an 8-4 Gaucho setback. Dayley struggled, giving up seven runs on nine hits, and four walks in five and two-thirds innings.
Senior shortstop Dave Licht and Spilborghs each smacked solo home runs, and the team banged out eleven hits. But Santa Barbara could not cash in at several crucial moments.
“Good starting pitching is the key,” Spilborghs said. “On offense we’re getting a lot of hits, but no clutch hits.”
UCSB found answers to both those problems on Saturday. Vasquez (4-1) continued his hot streak, giving up two runs in six and two-thirds, and striking out five to win his fourth straight start.
A first-inning home run gave Pepperdine a 2-0 lead, but Santa Barbara was able to answer in the fifth. Licht walked with the bases loaded, and Spilborghs came up big with the pressure on, singling to the left to score two runs.
That would be all the Gauchos would need, as junior pitcher Jared Edrosolan and Garcia combined to shut out the Waves over the last two and one-third to secure the victory. Garcia recorded the save in his first relief appearance of the season.
“I’m more comfortable starting,” Garcia said, “but whatever my role turns out to be, I’ll take it and run with it.”
The Gauchos were not able to build on this positive momentum in Sunday’s game. Junior Kevin Miller (2-1) took the loss, but was not alone in struggling. The only effective pitcher of the five who worked was Garcia, who did not give up a run over the game’s final two innings. However, it was not enough to keep the Gauchos from falling 13-10 in a four-hour marathon.
Contributing equally to Santa Barbara’s defeat was its offense’s inability to come up with the clutch hit. The Gauchos had two home runs from Spilborghs, and one each from junior first baseman Josh McCanne and freshman designated hitter Matt Wilkerson, but again were unable to deliver when it mattered most.
A furious rally with two outs in the ninth saw the Gauchos score three runs and bring the tying run to the plate, but Santa Barbara did not send the game into extra innings.
“We’re getting the big hit, but not at the right time,” Brontsema said. “But we stayed with it and we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
The Gauchos next chance to win will be tomorrow at 2 p.m. when they host Georgetown in a recently scheduled game.