The UCSB baseball team had been hoping to stomp all over the Dirtbags. Instead they ended up eating dirt.
The Gauchos traveled to Long Beach this past weekend for a series against the 49ers hoping to fight their way into contention in the Big West Conference. However, the Jekyll-and-Hyde act that has plagued Santa Barbara’s season continued.
The Gauchos were able to pull out a 13-6 victory on Saturday night thanks to a seven-run, 10th-inning explosion, but the team sandwiched that step forward with two steps back, as they fell 8-5 on Friday and 4-2 on Sunday. The series loss dropped UCSB’s season record to 16-21, 3-6 in the Big West, while the No. 14 Niners went to 23-10, with an imposing 8-1 conference mark that puts them alone in first place.
The Gauchos were fairly confident entering Friday night’s game, as stalwart sophomore starter Matt Vasquez took the hill. However, Vasquez struggled, surrendering seven runs on six hits in less than five innings of work to fall 4-5 on the year.
The offense did little to help Vasquez, and LBSU starter Abe Alvarez (8-1) struck out nine Gauchos, allowing three unearned runs in six and two-thirds innings. UCSB’s lone offensive highlight was a ninth-inning home run by junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs, his 10th of the year.
The Gauchos’ bats may have been cold on Friday, but refused to wave the white flag. Junior left fielder Blair Havens sparked the offense. Havens led off with a single before stealing a base, and eventually scoring on Spilborghs’ groundout.
Havens continued to have an oil spill-like effect on the Beach in the second, as he drove in sophomore third baseman Nate Sutton with a bunt single. Havens went four for six on the day, scoring three runs and driving in two. He raised his batting average to a scorching .385 in conference play. Santa Barbara pounded out 17 hits, as Sutton, senior shortstop Dave Licht and freshman second baseman Chris Malec all enjoyed multi-hit days.
A strong outing from junior southpaw Sean Thompson backed UCSB’s offensive proficiency. Thompson went seven and two-thirds innings, allowing five runs on 11 hits. Long Beach rallied with four runs in the eighth and one in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extra innings.
However, the Dirtbags imploded in the tenth, committing three errors, allowing the Gauchos to score seven runs on only three hits. Freshman Eric Posthumus (3-1) picked up the win, allowing just one run in two and a third innings.
The Gauchos entered Sunday’s rubber match hoping to capitalize on LBSU’s collapse and steal the series. Unfortunately, the team was never able to come up with the big hit, falling 4-2 while stranding 12 runners on base.
UCSB returns home for a crucial series against another conference titan, Cal State Fullerton, starting this Friday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.