The series that started out looking like a clash of the titans ended up being a bash for the Titans.
The UCSB baseball team fell in three consecutive games this weekend against No. 14 Cal State Fullerton by scores of 6-2, 12-6, and 9-2.
The series sweep dropped Santa Barbara to 16-24, with a 3-9 record in the Big West Conference while Fullerton (27-12, 10-2) maintained its strong grip on second place in the conference.
“We’ve had a lot of winnable games this year,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Sometimes things don’t go your way.”
The series opened on Friday with an epic pitcher’s duel between Titan ace Wes Littleton and the Gauchos’ sophomore standout Matt Vasquez. Littleton looked dominant for much of the game, striking out eight Gauchos while taking a shutout into the eighth inning. Vasquez matched Littleton step by step.
“Littleton’s a good pitcher,” Vasquez said, “but I knew I could compete with him.”
In the eighth, Littleton took the hill trying to preserve a 1-0 lead, but with junior left fielder Blair Havens on second with two outs, junior right fielder Ryan Spilborghs crushed a monstrous home run to right center to give the Gauchos a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, Santa Barbara could not hold the lead, as Fullerton’s All-American right fielder Shane Costa scored on a Vasquez wild pitch to send the game into extra innings.
Despite losing the lead, Vasquez was spectacular, going ten innings, giving up just two runs on ten hits and striking out two while walking none.
“Vasquez pitched extremely well,” Brontsema said. “I wish we could have rewarded him with a win.”
Junior Kevin Miller came on to relieve Vasquez in the eleventh, but Fullerton shortstop Justin Smyres clocked his first pitch over the right field wall for his second homer of the year. That opened the floodgates, and Fullerton would tack on three more runs to make the final score 6-2. Miller (2-3) took the loss, while Titans reliever Chad Cordero (4-1) picked up the win with three and a third scoreless innings.
“That’s the way this season’s gone,” Spilborghs said. “We’ve been going toe to toe with the best teams and the best pitchers, but we can’t quite close it out.”
The Gauchos were never able to recover from the disappointing first-game loss, and they were tattooed for six runs in the first inning on Saturday en route to a 12-6 loss. Junior lefty Sean Thompson (2-2) took the loss, giving up nine runs, eight earned, in five and a third innings.
UCSB got off to a better start on Sunday, holding a 2-1 lead going into the fifth thanks to sophomore catcher Taylor Vogt’s first career home run. However, Costa fired a three run shot to right off of senior starter Matt Moran (1-2), and Fullerton won going away, 9-2.
Costa drove in five runs on Sunday, and he smoked Gauchos pitchers all weekend, going 8-14 for the series.
“I saw too much of him,” Brontsema said. “I hope he’s got the first seat on the bus back home.”
The Gauchos will have a break from conference play next weekend. UCSB will travel to USC Wednesday night before hosting Westmont on Thursday at 2 p.m.