The UCSB baseball team snapped its nine-game losing streak on Friday in a dramatic 6-5 victory over #5 Long Beach State, but could not overcome the Dirtbags’ stellar pitching on Saturday and Sunday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, falling 11-3 and 9-3.
Junior Matt Vasquez pitched eight and two-thirds strong innings on Friday and gave up five runs on nine hits. The 49ers tagged the right-hander for four runs in the first inning, but Vasquez settled down and let the Gaucho offense take over.
Santa Barbara (19-24, 2-10 in the Big West) got on the board in the second inning with senior left fielder Blair Havens’ sacrifice fly. Down 4-4 in the sixth, UCSB tied the affair with an RBI single by junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf.
Long Beach (29-13, 9-3) responded in its half of the ninth when junior catcher Todd Jennings’ two-out ground ball rolled under UCSB third baseman Nate Sutton’s glove and scored freshman second baseman Chuck Sindlinger from second base. The unearned run prompted UCSB Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal to relieve Vasquez with junior southpaw Ivan Ramirez (3-1), who recorded the final out.
In the bottom of the inning, freshman pinch-hitter Bill Rowe led off with a single to center. Rowe advanced to second on sophomore center fielder Matt Stevens’sacrifice bunt. Dirtbag senior closer Carlos Muniz then walked Sutton to bring up senior designated hitter Nic Rodriguez. On a 1-2 pitch, Rodriguez sent a line drive base hit up the middle to score Rowe with the game-tying run.
“The last thing I wanted to do was ground into a double play,” Rodriguez said. “I just tried to sit back and luckily I was able to get my barrel on one.”
Then with runners on the corners, senior first baseman Josh McCanne sent a ground ball to LBSU freshman shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who flipped the ball to second baseman Sindlinger, who then fired toward first but pulled junior Mike Hofius off the bag. The fielder’s choice allowed Sutton to score from third with the winning run.
“I just thought we went after it and competed all game,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said after Friday’s game.
Ramirez picked up the victory after throwing just one pitch.
“Ivan vultured that win,” Vasquez said with a smile.
On Saturday, Long Beach’s sophomore Jered Weaver (9-3) was too much for the Gauchos. The right-hander, whose brother Jeff pitches for the New York Yankees, tossed eight innings while scattering five hits and three runs. He struck out six and walked none.
UCSB freshman Michael Martin (2-2) picked up the loss despite striking out eight.
In Sunday’s finale, Santa Barbara kept the game close for five innings, but shaky defense allowed Long Beach to blow the game open. With the Dirtbags ahead 3-0 in the sixth, a two-out throwing error by senior
shortstop Josh Fulton and a dropped foul pop-up by McCanne gave Jennings the opportunity to smack his second home run of the season and widen the gap to 6-0.
UCSB answered in its half of the inning when Sutton drilled freshman Cesar Ramos’ (3-4) fastball over the right field wall for his fourth home run. But Long Beach would score three more runs before the end of the day and the Gauchos could not catch up.
“They had a really good pitching staff,” Sutton said. “[Ramos] was pretty good, he had me guessing a lot. And Weaver was probably one of the best righties we’ve seen this season.”
Senior southpaw Sean Thompson (5-5) was the hard-luck loser on Sunday, scattering 10 hits over six innings of work.
“I don’t feel good,” Brontsema said on Sunday. “To win one is a good thing, but if we had played better all weekend I would feel better.”