With the help of zany, late-inning heroics on Sunday, the UCSB baseball team captured its first series sweep of the season against Cal State Northridge over the weekend.
The Gauchos (16-13) topped Northridge by one run in each of the series’ three games, culminating with Sunday’s 5-4 come-from-behind win.
UCSB trailed 4-3 entering the final half inning before a two-run rally sent the Matadors (6-27) packing. With one out, senior third baseman Josh Fulton singled to right bringing up senior first baseman Josh McCanne. McCanne, who prior to Saturday’s game had missed 15 games due to a hamstring injury, reached base when his sinking line drive to right field was misplayed by CSUN right fielder Quinn Ciccarelli. The error brought up hot-hitting junior third baseman Nate Sutton. Sutton, who finished 2-for-4 at the plate, tagged the first pitch he saw at second baseman Drew Aguailar, but as the ball hit the infield dirt, it awkwardly hopped over Aguailar’s head and produced the game-tying RBI.
“[Sutton] has been our toughest out over the last month,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We can’t get him up to the plate enough.”
With the score knotted at 4-4 and runners on the corners, Northridge Head Coach Steve Rousey opted to bring one of his outfielders into the infield as a fifth fielder, positioned behind the second base bag. The decision did not pay off, as sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson sent a screaming ground ball to third. Third baseman Dominick Phillips fielded the ball cleanly and threw to second base for the force out. But as Aguailar attempted his throw to first base, Sutton upended him with an arguably clean slide. The collision allowed McCanne to score from third with the winning run.
The initial confusion regarding the legitimacy of the slide gave way and the Gauchos stormed onto the field to celebrate their first sweep.
“It felt really good,” Sutton said of the victory. “We needed it. I don’t know; I slid into second and I had no idea what was going on. I thought it was a double play for a second, I thought they turned it. I started jogging back to the dug out and then I saw everyone out here.”
Junior right-hander Matt Vasquez led the Gauchos on the hill on Sunday, scattering nine hits over eight innings while allowing four earned runs.
“I struggled early in the game,” Vasquez said. “Then later I just got stronger and more confident. Early I was throwing a lot of fastballs and they were just sitting on it, and I couldn’t find a second pitch for a strike. Then at about the fifth inning I found my curveball.”
Vasquez struck out seven and walked two, but freshman righty Michael Martin (2-0) picked up the win in relief by setting down the final two batters in the top of the ninth.
Senior southpaw Sean Thompson (4-3) picked up the win in the Gauchos’ Friday 5-4 victory and sophomore righty Eric Posthumus was awarded the victory for Saturday’s 6-5 win.