Freshman right-hander Steve Morlock pitched well enough to win his college debut, but the Gauchos couldn’t support him at the end of the day.

The UCSB baseball team fell to #3 USC 5-2 on Tuesday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

“The only reason I’m not crying right now is because I thought Steve Morlock was awesome,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said after Santa Barbara’s third-straight defeat. “I was so encouraged that he was healthy. It’s probably been about two and a half weeks since his last [outing], so to be that sharp and that effective and to be dominant at times was the ultimate silver lining today.”

Morlock, suffering from a tender groin, tossed four effective innings and gave up just one earned run.

Once again, the Gaucho defense opened the door for the Trojans, who eventually capitalized to score unearned runs in the first and eighth innings.

“That stuff is going to happen and you can’t dwell on it,” Morlock said. “You’ve just got to keep on going out there. We’re not going to blame anyone for our loss.”

Southern California opened the scoring in its half of the first after junior second baseman Michael Moon reached base on UCSB shortstop Josh Fulton’s throwing error. Two outs later, Fulton was unable to come up with a ground ball off sophomore Joey Metropoulos’bat, allowing the first run.

The Gauchos answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning when sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson drove in sophomore second baseman Chris Malec with a double to left-center. It was Wilkerson’s first RBI of the season, now four games old.

Morlock retired six of the next seven batters before giving up a lead-off single to Metropoulos in the fourth. The Trojan first baseman eventually scored on senior right fielder David Gordon’s single, giving USC a 2-1 lead.

While the Gaucho bats mustered five hits in the first eight innings, the Trojans added to their lead in the sixth. Against senior left-hander Sean Thompson, Gordon picked up his second RBI of the day by sending a one-strike fastball deep over the left-centerfield fence for a two-run lead.

Despite giving up the home run, UCSB Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal was encouraged to see Thompson make the necessary adjustments after a rocky outing in Saturday’s start against San Diego State. Thompson gave up six runs in two and a third innings pitched on Saturday.

“Today was his bullpen day anyway,” Ricabal said of the southpaw. “He didn’t throw a lot of pitches on Saturday and he’s been working on some things with his mechanics in the last couple of days. I really wanted to run him out there before he got his next start and this is just a perfect opportunity and he pitched well.”

The Trojans added insurance in the eighth inning against junior southpaw Ivan Ramirez. After retiring the inning’s first two hitters, Ramirez gave up an infield single to senior catcher Matt Bonovich and then watched junior second baseman Jon Brewster smash an inside fastball for a two-run homer.

Brontsema said he believes his squad was closer to winning the game than the scoreboard showed.

“They didn’t realize that they could have won that game today,” he said. “We’ve got to find ourselves an identity and we’ve got to relax a little bit and when that happens we’ll be a much better club. Hopefully that happens much sooner than later.”