Just when it looked like the Gauchos were going to drown against Pacific, they finally broke through for a much-needed gasp of air.
The UCSB baseball team won its first Big West series this year against UOP at Billy Hebert Field this weekend. They rebounded from a heartbreaking 5-4 loss on Friday to poach the Tigers by scores of 18-2 and 9-3. The series victory raised Santa Barbara’s record to 19-30, 5-13 in the Big West, while Pacific fell to 25-23-1 and 6-12 in conference.
On Friday night, things seemed to be going to form for the Gauchos, who have struggled since conference play started. The team received a great start from junior lefty Sean Thompson, who entered the ninth with a 4-1 lead and appeared to be cruising to an easy victory.
However, the Tigers started the ninth with back to back singles, and a series of Gaucho miscues, including two errors by sophomore third baseman Nate Sutton, left the door open.
Sophomore Matt Vasquez relieved Thompson, trying to close the game out, but the score was 4-3 and there were two strikes on UOP center fielder Joel Summers. Vasquez allowed a two-run double that gave the Tigers a 5-4 win. The loss lowered Vasquez’ record to 4-8, and wasted a brilliant performance by Thompson, who went 8.2 innings. Thompson allowed four runs, one earned, while striking out eight.
UCSB bounced back in a big way, spearing the Tigers 18-2 on Saturday to break its eight-game conference losing-streak. The Gauchos chased off Pacific’s top starter in less than two innings, roasting James Stanford for six runs on five hits. Santa Barbara had nine runs before UOP ever got on the board and led 16-2 by the end of the fifth.
The offensive combustion was led by junior first baseman Josh McCanne, who went 4-for-6 with his fifth homer and two doubles for five RBIs. He got help from Sutton, who redeemed his poor Friday showing by going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. In addition, the top three Gauchos in the order, junior left fielder Blair Havens, senior shortstop Dave Licht, and freshman second baseman Chris Malec combined to go 7-for-14 with five runs and eight RBIs.
Freshman starter Eric Posthumus (5-1) was the primary beneficiary of the offensive breakout. Posthumus slew the Tigers offense, allowing just two runs on five hits and striking out three in tossing his first complete game of his career.
The Gauchos entered Sunday’s rubber match on a mission to win their first conference series, and they rode the coattails of the sophomore Vasquez (5-8). After allowing three runs in the first, Vasquez calmed down and shutout UOP the rest of the way, going seven innings and striking out seven to earn the victory and snap his own personal seven game losing streak.
Despite Vasquez’ strong effort, Santa Barbara trailed 3-2 heading into the sixth, but the team was able to take a 5-3 lead on two run-scoring wild pitches and an RBI-triple by Havens, who went 3-for-6 to close out a 7-for-15 weekend.
The Gauchos will look to build on this weekend’s positive developments when they host Sacramento State at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium next weekend.