For the first time this season, the Gauchos used one of their many opportunities to climb out of last place in the Big West. Fittingly, it was limiting Pacific’s opportunities to score, and cashing in on their own that netted the Gauchos the 2-1 series win over the Tigers.

“We gave Pacific way too many opportunities,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said after Saturday’s 7-5 loss to the Tigers, a game in which the Gaucho staff issued eight walks. “We did not have command of the strike zone.”

UOP (26-25, 5-13 in the Big West) pounded out 11 hits on Sunday, yet scored only three runs en route to a 4-3 loss at the hands of Santa Barbara (23-27, 6-12 in the Big West). The Gauchos made critical outs that doused every Pacific rally from the fourth inning on and scored two runs in their half of the eighth to take the game and the series.

UCSB senior lefty Sean Thompson started Sunday’s game and went seven innings, scattering 10 hits and striking out four. Pacific sophomore left fielder Adam Ringer singled with one away in the third, and senior center fielder Josh Snook drew a free pass from Thompson to start the rally. Tiger freshman third baseman Chase Headley punched a run-scoring double into right field, which Thompson followed with a wild pitch that scored Snook. UOP junior designated hitter Cory Lake drove Headley in with a sacrifice fly to right field to make it a 3-1 Tiger lead.

The Gaucho defense could do nothing wrong from that point on, as senior catcher Chad Ziemendorf gunned down a runner trying to steal third in the fourth inning and junior third baseman Nate Sutton started a double play in the fifth. Thompson stranded runners on second and third in the sixth inning. In the seventh, senior shortstop Josh Fulton relayed a throw from freshman left fielder Bill Rowe to second base to nab Headley trying to stretch a single into a double.

The Gauchos cut their deficit in half in the fifth inning, with Fulton beating out a chopper to first that Tiger senior first baseman Adam Alverson muffed. Fulton stole second and was singled in by Sutton with two outs to pull the Gauchos within one run of Pacific.

Down 3-2 in the eighth, UCSB brought in junior reliever Jared Edrosolan, who pitched three scoreless innings of relief. Edrosolan retired Lake, but gave up a walk and a hit and left in favor of junior southpaw Ivan Ramirez, who fanned the two left-handed hitters that he faced.

Sutton’s triple to right center to lead off the Gaucho eighth spelled the end of Pacific senior starter James Stanford’s day. Gaucho senior designated hitter Nic Rodriguez dumped a 1-1 pitch from UOP junior reliever Andy Willick into left field for a single to score Sutton and tie the ball game. Rowe moved UCSB freshman pinch runner Gabe Mann over to second base with a sacrifice bunt, and Willick uncorked a wild pitch that swung Mann around to third. Gaucho senior Josh McCanne lifted a sacrifice fly to center to put the Gauchos up for good, 4-3.

UCSB freshman closer Steve Morlock pitched a perfect ninth inning for his ninth save.

The Gauchos won the series opener, 11-4, collecting 11 hits, all singles, and receiving a gritty outing from junior right hander Matt Vasquez, who improved to 4-4 with the win. UCSB sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson, Rodriguez, Fulton, and Ziemendorf each amassed two hits in the victory.

UCSB will host Cal Poly (26-23, 8-10 in the Big West) this weekend to conclude the 2003 season.