The Gauchos entered last weekend with a four-game winning streak and came out shaking their heads at what could have been.
The UCSB baseball team dropped two of its first three conference games over the weekend to Irvine at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The Gauchos (18-15, 1-2 in the Big West) downed the Anteaters 7-4 in Friday’s series opener, but could not keep the winning streak together. Santa Barbara lost the final two games of the series by scores of 7-6 and 6-4. In all three games, the two squads battled toe-to-toe, and the series was decided by a total of five runs.
“There were three good college baseball games,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We made a couple of mistakes, a couple of bad decisions that ended up being costly, but as a whole it was entertaining, good college baseball.”
Gaucho senior southpaw Sean Thompson (5-3) picked up the victory on Friday after giving up four runs on eight hits in five innings. A trio of pitchers finished the game for Thompson. Freshman Michael Martin, junior Ivan Ramirez and freshman closer Steve Morlock shut down UCI. Morlock picked up his seventh save of the season.
Hot-hitting junior third baseman Nate Sutton and sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson each pounded out three hits for the Gauchos. Sutton scored two runs and Wilkerson slugged his third home run of the season.
On Saturday, the Gauchos scored three times in the first inning from RBI singles by senior first baseman Josh McCanne and Sutton.
But UCSB sophomore right-handed starter Eric Posthumus (2-2) lasted just four and a third innings and gave up four runs, two of which were earned. Irvine scored its two unearned runs in the third inning before UCI freshman utility Matt Falk led off the fourth with a home run to right, tying the game at 3-3.
Down 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Santa Barbara forced the game into extra innings when sophomore second baseman Chris Malec’s pop-up was misplayed by UCI shortstop B.J. Eucce, allowing Wilkerson to score from first. Malec tried to score on the same play. After a series of miscues, Malec was thrown out, denying the Gauchos a victory.
Irvine scored the go-ahead run in the 11th inning on a sacrifice fly off junior righty Jared Edrosolan (0-2), and UCSB could not answer. The Gauchos stranded 11 runners in the setback.
“I thought their pitchers were pretty good – all that they were advertised,” Brontsema said of the highly touted UCI staff.
On Sunday, a Gaucho comeback fell short as UCSB scored three times in the bottom of the eighth inning, which was not enough to erase a 6-1 deficit.
Junior right-hander (2-3) Matt Vasquez got the loss and was touched for all six runs on seven hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked none.
“Hitters hit your mistakes, and that’s what happened today,” Vasquez said.
Despite the 1-2 conference start, Brontsema did not lose confidence in his team’s ability to chase a Big West championship.
“We put ourselves in a little hole,” he said. “We’re going to have to make it up somewhere along the line. We’re going to have to sweep somebody.”