In baseball, sometimes a team must take one step back in order to take two steps forward.
The Gauchos did just that over the weekend, as they took two of three games from Sacramento State University (8-8) and won their second consecutive series.
UCSB (8-9) dropped the opener on Friday 4-1, but quickly countered with a 4-3 victory on Saturday and an impressive 11-1 blowout on Sunday.
“I thought we responded well to a tough Friday [game],” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “I thought we bounced back and pitched well all weekend.”
Junior right-hander Matt Vasquez (2-1) tossed six solid innings on Sunday en route to his second victory of the season.
“I felt strong,” he said. “[Sacramento] played solid out there and they battled.”
By the time Vasquez took the mound in the fourth inning, the Gaucho offense had already built an impressive 8-0 lead with the help of seven hits, three errors and two free trips to first base thanks to pitches hitting batsmen.
UCSB scored five times in the first inning off senior Hornet right-hander Steve Cuckovich. Sophomore second baseman Matt Stevens, who inherited the lead-off spot on Saturday, ignited the scoring frenzy with a double to left.
The Gauchos eventually sent all nine batters to the plate in the first frame and collected on RBI base hits from freshman first baseman Bill Rowe and freshman center fielder Matt Emerick.
“One of the things that we’ve really been missing is getting on base and [Stevens] has done a great job of starting our rallies,” Brontsema said. “It’s not just the fact that he’s getting base hits; he’s making it so that we don’t have to execute as much. He was key for our weekend.”
In the third, junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf reached base safely on an error and then junior left fielder Brian Adams put the game out of reach with a moon shot to right field, giving the Gauchos an 8-0 lead. The home run was his second of the season.
Vasquez shifted into cruise control after that, allowing just four hits while striking out five. The Gaucho ace lowered his ERA to 3.54. He said his approach changed after being gifted the eight-run lead.
“I went out there and got ahead with my fastball,” Vasquez said. “I just tried to pitch with the lead and make them get themselves out instead of trying to trick them.”
Right-handers junior Rich Sorenson and sophomores Mike Sutherland and Alex McRobbie each pitched one scoreless inning in relief to seal the victory. Pitching coach Dan Ricabal praised his reliable bullpen.
“You’re only as good as your bullpen and we stressed that since day one,” he said. “If you look at all the teams that have had success from the big leagues all the way down, if you don’t have a bullpen you’re not going to be successful.”
UCSB’s relief core also pitched three effective innings on Saturday as junior southpaw Ivan Ramirez (2-0) picked up his second victory while relieving sophomore right-handed starter Eric Posthumus (0-2). Posthumus rebounded well after a shaky outing on Feb. 22 by giving up just two earned runs in six innings of work.
“I knew it was important to have a good outing this time so I could bounce back,” Posthumus said. “I was really pumped up and ready to go. Since the day after I pitched last week, I wanted to get back out there and redeem myself.”
Senior left-hander Sean Thompson (1-3) allowed only two earned runs and scattered nine hits on Friday despite picking up the loss.