The Gauchos may have just found the secret to success. Now they just have to convince the Big West schedule makers to let them play Cal State Northridge every weekend.
UCSB (21-25, 4-11 in the Big West) snapped a nine-game road losing streak and won its first series in over a month this weekend at Matador Field in Northridge. Santa Barbara picked up a 7-1 victory in Friday’s opener against the Matadors and then took the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, 7-6. UCSB dropped Sunday’s first game by a score of 10-4.
Junior Matt Vasquez (3-4) made what was arguably his best start of the year Friday as he tossed a five-hit complete game. The right-hander gave up just one earned run en route to striking out a season-high 10 batters. Vasquez retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced.
“It was dominant,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said of Vasquez’s performance. “He was as good as I’ve seen him all year. I was very encouraged.”
Offensively, junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf blasted his third home run of the year in the seventh inning. The three-run dinger put the finishing touches on what was then the fourth UCSB victory over the Matadors this season.
UCSB got on board in the third inning when sophomore center fielder Matt Stevens reached base on second baseman Drew Aguailar’s fielding error. After Stevens stole second, he scored on senior shortstop Josh Fulton’s RBI single. Fulton then scored after a balk and a wild pitch.
Saturday’s rain forced the game to be rescheduled, leading to UCSB’s first doubleheader of the year on Sunday.
In Sunday’s first game, reliable senior pitcher Sean Thompson (5-6) was not himself, lasting just three and one-third innings and gave up seven runs on seven hits. The Matadors (12-37, 6-8) got all the runs they would need in the third inning. A two-out, six-run rally began when Thompson walked in a run to tie the game at 1-1. He then allowed a base hit to give Northridge the lead.
The Matadors put four more runs up when Thompson balked in another run, and then allowed a base-clearing double a batter later. Ziemendorf stroked his second home run in as many games in the losing effort.
In the nightcap, Ziemendorf struck again with another two-run home run, his team-leading fifth of the year. The two-run shot came in the seventh inning with the Gauchos trailing 4-2.
“Chad was huge this weekend,” Brontsema said. “He came up big again today in the second game. We’re struggling to score runs and Ziemendorf’s shot was a big lift.”
Ziemendorf finished the weekend 4-for-10 with four runs scored, six RBIs and three home runs.
In the eighth inning, Santa Barbara took the lead for good when sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson knocked a two-run double to give UCSB the 7-6 lead. Freshman Steve Morlock pitched a scoreless ninth for his eighth save of the season.
“I felt we just scrapped our way to the second game win today,” Brontsema quipped. “We played hard and we just got some big hits. But I’ll say it again, Northridge is the best 12-37 team around. We’ve been lucky to take five of six from them.”