The UCSB baseball team had a weekend indicative of its entire season.
Excellence was marred by inconsistency, brilliant performances were wasted by untimely blunders and pleasant surprises were overshadowed by unmet expectations. This portrait is indicative of a season that ran a course from disappointment to frustration.
“We didn’t play that poorly, just poor enough to lose,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “That’s just how it has been.”
The Gauchos wrapped up a long, difficult season against Cal Poly over the weekend with a dominant 19-10 victory followed by an agonizing 10-9 ninth-inning loss and an 8-3 shellacking defeat to finish 22-33 overall and 8-16 in the Big West.
The series loss displayed the full spectrum of Gaucho performances, from overpowering dominance to underachieving disappointment.
Santa Barbara started off on fire, assailing Cal Poly with a 19-hit barrage. All of the Gauchos were hot, especially sophomore catcher Taylor Vogt.
“He just came out and hit the ball hard,” freshman second baseman Chris Malec said.
Vogt laced two off-the-wall triples and another booming double, going 3-4 with two RBIs.
Vogt was so scorching that Cal Poly pitchers opted to intentionally walk him twice to get to Gaucho home run leaders Ryan Spilborghs and Matt Wilkerson, who subsequently punished the Mustangs.
All of Vogt’s teammates had base hits on the day, and all but one had multiple hits as the Gauchos turned the Mustangs into glue.
“We came out and it seemed like everything we hit was right in the screws,” Malec said.
UCSB exploded for eight runs in the sixth inning, including back-to-back homers from sophomore third baseman Nate Sutton and junior infielder Josh McCanne. Sutton also added a triple in the inning for good measure.
Junior pitcher Sean Thompson improved to 4-3, chucking seven innings, striking out three and giving up just three earned runs as the Gauchos seemed to have garnered the momentum to snatch a season-ending series victory.
Santa Barbara exploded out of the gate the following day, pouncing on the Mustangs early with a 6-0 lead.
Freshman hurler Eric Posthumus started off with some lethal pitching, hurling four scoreless innings before being yanked in the sixth after he was shelled for six runs to tie the game 6-6.
UCSB broke the tie in the seventh with consecutive home runs from Malec and McCanne, who gave the Gauchos a lead they hoped they could keep.
“We hit well and played well until the ninth inning,” Malec said.
In the final frame, the Gauchos quite literally threw the game, giving up two walks and two errors to tie it at nine.
The Gauchos handed the Mustangs the game and the series’ momentum when junior James Dayley threw a wild pitch that scored the winning run.
“It was definitely the worst way to lose,” Malec said. “You think you have the game in control and then, all of the sudden, a few things don’t go your way and you’re left on the field while they celebrate.”
From there on, the Gauchos seemed feckless, losing their final game of the season in uninspiring fashion.
“It was good for the first seventeen innings,” Brontsema said. “I t was those last ten I didn’t enjoy.”
Santa Barbara’s offense was shut down by Mustang senior pitcher Kevin Correia who threw a complete game seven-hitter in game three.
“It was their senior ace,” Wilkerson said. “He was throwing hard and dominating the game.”
This loss meant the conclusion to the Gauchos’ season, a roller coaster year that left them with a bad taste in their mouths and envious hunger in their hearts.
“We have a lot of young guys who didn’t know what to expect,” Wilkerson said. “Our lack of experience caught up with us.”
UCSB hopes that this year has been an invaluable learning experience and will serve as a foundation for greatness to come.
“I think our future is bright,” Brontsema said.