The UCSB baseball team took advantage of a rare power surge and some timely base hits and won two of three games this weekend against Santa Clara at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
In Sunday’s series finale the Gauchos (6-8) made use of some late-inning heroics at the plate and on the mound to capitalize on the 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, junior left fielder Brian Adams fisted a fastball into shallow center field, scoring junior designated hitter Greg Powers and giving UCSB its third win in four games.
“The baseball gods finally gave us a blooper,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said after the game.
The Broncos got on the board first on Sunday with two runs in the second inning off three singles and two Santa Barbara errors. UCSB cut the lead in half in the fourth when senior designated hitter Nic Rodriguez drove in sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson with a double to left. Rodriguez struck again in the next inning with his third hit, scoring freshman center fielder Gabe Mann to give the Gauchos a 3-2 lead. Rodriguez finished 4-for-4 at the plate with two RBI in only his third start of the season.
“It was a good game and it’s just nice to be able to contribute and help the team get a ‘W’,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been playing pretty tough and been falling on some hard luck and it was just nice to get in there and get a chance to perform.”
Santa Clara tied the game in the sixth inning with sophomore first baseman Will Thompson’s second home run and seventh RBI of the weekend. The teams exchanged two runs over the final three innings and entered the 10th with the score tied 4-4.
UCSB freshman right-hander Steve Morlock, who had entered the game in the eighth inning, continued his tightrope walk through the Bronco lineup and narrowly escaped a two-out jam thanks to an Ozzie Smith-like play by senior shortstop Josh Fulton. With the go-ahead run on second base, Santa Clara senior left fielder Joe Diefenderfer sent a hard chopper into the hole between shortstop and third base. Fulton backhanded the ball on the run then turned and fired a strike to freshman first baseman Bill Rowe for the final out.
The run-saving play seemed to jump-start the UCSB offense. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Bronco freshman reliever Patrick Overholt beaned Gaucho sophomore second baseman Matt Stevens, moving junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf, who had reached base on a fielder’s choice, into scoring position. That’s when Adams stepped to the plate.
“I was thinking less during that at bat than all the others,” Adams said. “It was almost like there was no pressure, I was just swinging away. There wasn’t too much going on in my head, I was just looking for my pitch.”
The win gave Morlock (2-2) his second victory of the season.
“We could have done a lot of little things better earlier in the game to make this game end a little sooner,” Brontsema said. “But the thing I want to dwell on is I think Steve Morlock was outstanding. He got in a jam here and a jam there and he kept pitching out of it and it allowed us to win the game.”
Gaucho junior ace Matt Vasquez, scratched from his regular Friday start, took the hill on Sunday and looked impressive in the no decision. He gave up four runs in six innings of work and struck out four.
The Gauchos took game one of the series 5-1 on Friday behind senior southpaw Sean Thompson’s five strong innings on the mound, Thompson (1-2) scattered eight hits while giving up just one run and striking out four. UCSB did most of its damage at the plate in the fourth inning as Stevens and junior third baseman Nate Sutton each went deep for the first time this season. Rowe followed with a dinger of his own in the fifth inning to finalize the victory.
On Saturday, Santa Barbara fell to the Broncos 13-6 after finding itself in a 7-0 first-inning deficit. Sophomore right-hander Eric Posthumus lasted just one inning and gave up eight earned runs before giving way to the UCSB bullpen. Ziemendorf’s three hits and four RBI were not enough to bring the Gauchos all the way back.
The weekend’s victories signified the first series win for the Gauchos, who look to be heading in the right direction after a shaky 2-7 start.
“We’re legit,” Vasquez said. “We should have a better record than we do. We’ve got solid hitting and excellent pitching and it’s coming together.”