Sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson and junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf combined for six RBIs and guided the UCSB baseball team past UCLA 7-5 Tuesday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Wilkerson, a 2002 Freshman All-American, went three for four with two singles, a triple and three RBIs. Ziemendorf contributed one hit and also picked up three RBIs.
Freshman right-hander Michael Martin (1-0) picked up the win in his first start as a Gaucho, giving up three earned runs in five innings.
“I felt good,” Martin said. “I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead in counts and just throw my game.”
UCSB (4-7) drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning when Bruin starter freshman Hector Ambriz had trouble settling down. Senior outfielder Blair Havens first connected on a line drive single to left, and advanced to second when Ambriz walked senior third baseman Nate Sutton. With Wilkerson at the plate, Ambriz threw a wild pitch and then balked on the next pitch, allowing Havens to score. Later in the at-bat, Wilkerson drove in Sutton with his first triple of the season.
After striking out UCLA sophomore right fielder Billy Susdorf and freshman left fielder Brett McMillan to begin the Bruins’ half of the second inning, Martin ran into some trouble of his own. He allowed consecutive singles to sophomore first baseman Wes Whisler and sophomore shortstop Ryan McCarthy before beaning sophomore third baseman Kevin Conlin. Freshman center fielder Adam Simon then roped an RBI single scoring Whisler and McCarthy, tying the score at 2-2.
After the schools exchanged runs in the third inning, UCSB took the lead in a four-run fourth inning, highlighted by Wilkerson’s two-RBI single to left field. Two batters later, Ziemendorf knocked a double to left, scoring both Wilkerson and junior designated hitter Taylor Vogt.
“We definitely needed to step up,” Wilkerson said. “I think I put it on myself to do what I needed to do.”
The slugger raised his average to .317 after a slow start.
“I think I came out at the beginning of the season expecting to just pick up where I left off at the end of last season,” Wilkerson said.
Freshman right-hander Steve Morlock picked up the save after striking out the side in the ninth.
But the day was filled with mixed emotions for the Gauchos. UCSB triumphed past their neighbors to the south, but also learned that three starting position players will be lost for over a month.
Sophomore second baseman Chris Malec, who injured his knee hitting a home run on Saturday, will miss 4-6 weeks. Havens broke a bone in his non-throwing hand while diving for a ball on Tuesday. Senior first baseman Josh McCanne will also be sidelined with an ailing hamstring.
“It obviously tests our depth and also creates a lack of depth,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said of the injuries. “We only had eight bench-position players as it is; now we’re going to be down to five. That doesn’t allow for a lot of moves.”
UCSB continues its eight-game home stand on Friday against Santa Clara. Wilkerson remains confident that the team will continue to surge.
“I think we’re the best 4-7 team in the nation by far,” he said. “I think we’re going to surprise some people this year. I’d rather start slow and then get hot than start hot and then drop off.”