The fast-improving UCSB baseball team could not escape the jaws of defeat this weekend in a thrilling Battle of the Beach Tournament in Malibu.

Despite opening the weekend with a gutsy 12-inning, 4-2 victory over #11 University of Houston on Friday, the Gauchos blew leads in the ninth inning against Washington and Pepperdine. The Huskies defeated Santa Barbara 6-5 and the Waves stunned UCSB 5-2.

“We played well and we pitched well,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Other than the losses, I’m happy.”

Putting zeros on the scoreboard was not a problem on Friday. Junior pitcher Matt Vasquez dueled highly touted Cougars right-hander Brad Sullivan nearly to a draw. Vasquez went six and two-thirds innings, allowing just one run on four hits, while Sullivan pitched six shutout innings.

With the score knotted 1-1 in the eighth inning, Santa Barbara turned to junior lefty Ivan Ramirez, who dazzled Houston for three and two-thirds innings of one-hit baseball. The Gaucho offense broke through for three runs in the 12th, highlighted by a two-run base hit by junior shortstop Greg Powers.

In the bottom of the 12th, Houston mounted a rally against UCSB closer Jared Edrosolan, who only got one out and allowed the Cougars to reach 4-2. Freshman Michael Martin came in to get the final two outs and his first career save.

The final innings would get progressively wilder as the weekend continued. The Gauchos entered the ninth inning with a 5-4 lead over Washington, thanks in large part to sophomore right-fielder Matt Wilkerson’s first home run of the season and senior lefty Sean Thompson’s six and a third innings pitched. Thompson struck out seven batters, allowing four runs on five hits.

“Thompson got better and better as the game went on,” Vasquez said.

However, Edrosolan again struggled to close the game out. The first batter he faced, Huskies first baseman Kyle Larsen, hit a game-tying home run to right-center field. The Huskies’ second baseman Brent Lillibridge drove home the winning run on a single for a 6-5 edge.

On Sunday, sophomore Eric Posthumus allowed only one run on five hits in six and a third innings. Junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf drove in two runs, one run on a homer and another on a ninth-inning base hit. The Gauchos entered the bottom of the ninth up 2-1.

This time, freshman Steve Morlock got a chance to nail the game down. With one out, Morlock loaded the bases, and Pepperdine’s Chris Kelly hit a walk-off grand slam to send UCSB reeling to a 5-2 defeat.

“We’re feeling really good about what we’ve accomplished,” Vasquez said. “Our pitchers are dealing and the bats are getting better. We just have to figure out how to get the last zero.”