The Gauchos endured grueling 14- and 12-inning games to kick off this weekend’s series against Cal Poly.
Those extra-inning contests made Sunday’s nine-inning game seem all the shorter, as five Gaucho seniors suited up for the last time at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
“This is a very close group of guys,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Even though it has been a tough season, we didn’t want it to end.”
It didn’t appear that the season, let alone Friday’s game, would ever end, as the Mustangs and the Gauchos dueled for 13 innings before Cal Poly (27-25, 9-12 in the Big West) pushed across the go-ahead run in the top of the 14th inning on a bases-loaded passed ball.
The Gauchos got their first two men on in the bottom of the 14th, but failed to score on sophomore reliever Dennis LeDuc, in his eighth inning of work, and fell, 6-5 LeDuc picked up the win, while Gaucho freshman closer Steve Morlock suffered the loss despite five effective innings in relief.
UCSB (25-28, 8-13 in the Big West) treated the home crowd to its money’s worth on Saturday, knotting the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning on sophomore second baseman Chris Malec’s RBI single. Junior catcher Chad Ziemendorf, who grounded out to end the Gaucho ninth, drew a full-count walk to lead off the bottom of the 12th inning. Senior left fielder Blair Havens singled, and then junior third baseman Nate Sutton, hitless in 12 previous at-bats, drove a 1-2 pitch to the deepest part of right center field for a double to win the game, 4-3. Gaucho sophomore Alex McRobbie contributed 4.1 scoreless innings of relief to earn his first collegiate win.
Santa Barbara rode senior southpaw Sean Thompson’s 7.2-inning effort to a 9-5 victory on Sunday, taking their third series in a row to close out the season in a tie for fifth place in the Big West.
Thompson tried to go out there and leave it all out on the line one last time, whiffing three hitters and walking none on the way to his team-best sixth victory.
The Gauchos torched sophomore reliever Andrew McDaniel for five hits and four runs in the fourth inning to break a 2-2 tie.
Malec and Ziemendorf laced back-to-back doubles, and Sutton and senior catcher Nic Rodriguez stroked consecutive singles to open up the scoring in the fourth. Senior first baseman Josh McCanne followed with a triple to deep center field to cap the rally.
Sophomore right fielder Matt Wilkerson walloped a triple down the right field line to lead off the fifth inning and scored on senior shortstop Josh Fulton’s line drive single off the glove of a diving Scott Anderson, Cal Poly’s senior shortstop.
The Gauchos struck for single runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Each senior collected a hit in his final game, and Rodriguez closed the book on his Gaucho career with a two-for-three performance, reaching base four times and scoring once before leaving the game in the eighth inning for a pinch runner. Wilkerson had two hits and scored twice, and Malec was three for four at the plate with three runs and an RBI.
Junior right-hander Jared Edrosolan came on in relief of Thompson and earned his second save of the season. Edrolosan’s first save came in the first game of the season against San Diego State.
“It was a nice way to end a frustrating season,” Malec said. “Winning these three series and finishing strong in conference is a good build for next season.”