The weekend started off well for the UCSB baseball team, but by Sunday afternoon the Gauchos realized they had plenty of room to improve.
Santa Barbara opened its 2003 season with a thrilling 2-1 victory over San Diego State on Friday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, but dropped the next two games of the weekend series 10-2 and 6-3, leaving them with a 1-2 record and a hint of forced optimism.
“I know we’ve got work to do,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said after Sunday’s game. “But I probably could have guessed that before we got started.”
Despite picking up the loss, sophomore right hander Eric Posthumus (0-1) tossed six and a third solid innings on Sunday giving up three earned runs on just four hits while striking out six. Most of the Gauchos’ problems came in the field on Sunday, committing two errors excluding a costly misplayed fly ball.
“Today we got good pitching and the couple of mistakes we made on defense were made in a row and were costly,” Brontsema said.
The Aztecs took the lead in the third inning after two Gaucho miscues and never looked back. After putting up three runs in the third, San Diego scored once in each of the final three innings to finalize a 6-3 victory.
UCSB fought until the end and even came within a run of tying the game in the seventh inning. Freshman center fielder Matt Emerick launched his first career home run into right center field in the seventh. Junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf, who reached base safely in all four at-bats Sunday, narrowed the margin to one after scoring on a Matt Stevens sacrifice fly.
“We absolutely battled,” Ziemendorf said. “I can’t say enough about the camaraderie of this team. We’re closer than we’ve ever been before and I think that shows on the field. Unfortunately we just didn’t make the routine plays.”
Friday’s season opening win was highlighted by an extraordinary pitching performance by junior right-hander Matt Vasquez (1-0). The Santa Barbara native picked up his first win of the season by tossing six innings and allowing just one earned run on five hits while striking out five.
“They have a solid lineup with some tough hitters in there,” Vasquez said of SDSU. “Overall I just went after them and if they got me they got me.”
Vasquez looked off his game early as he walked the first batter of the game but UCSB Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal was able to settle him down.
“He got ready a little too early,” Ricabal said of Vasquez. “He’s an excitable kid and being the first game of the season it’s tough to settle him down. But it was a gutsy performance and I’m very proud of him.”
Junior designated hitter Taylor Vogt provided the winning margin for the Gauchos with a 385-foot solo home run to right field in the fourth. Junior southpaw Ivan Ramirez pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings before junior Jared Edrosolan came in to record the save.
Saturday’s 10-2 lopsided defeat was over almost before the lineup made it through the order once. Senior southpaw Sean Thompson (0-1) allowed six runs in two and one thirds inning of work. By the fourth inning, the Gauchos trailed 8-1 and had it not been for a pinch-hit homer off the bat of junior transfer Greg Powers it would have stayed that way.
San Diego State Head Coach and future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn praised his starting pitching and potent bats for the win.
“Joe Carque pitched eight strong innings for us and basically made one mistake and that was the home run in the eight inning,” Gwynn said. “But other than that he pitched a great game and the offense was able to generate some runs.”
Senior left fielder Blair Havens believes his team’s preliminary problems will be just that.
“I thought we were definitely a better team [than SDSU],” Havens said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of playing defense and swinging the bats.”
Santa Barbara will not have much time to work on kinks in the armor with #6 USC cruising to town Tuesday at 2 p.m.