The Gauchos (2-1) won two games and lost one with pitching, but their defense, which committed no errors, was there throughout the entire weekend against San Diego State (5-6). Santa Barbara’s first opening-series win since 2000 was highlighted by a 2-0 pitchers’ duel in Sunday’s rubber game that saw stifling pitching and fancy glove work in the 2-hour, 18-minute affair.
UCSB struck quickly in the top of the first inning, cashing in on a one-out double by senior designated hitter Greg Powers when junior second baseman Chris Malec singled him in. The 1-0 lead would hold up for the entire game as sophomore pitcher Michael Martin allowed only five base runners in seven innings pitched. Martin retired 16 of the last 18 hitters he faced and then turned the ball over to junior hurler Nate Holguin and senior closer Aaron Jones, who combined for two scoreless innings to complete the shutout.
Malec was the busiest Gaucho of all in the field, accepting eight chances without an error and putting on quite a display with the leather, twice ranging far to his left to steal would-be base hits. In the sixth inning, Malec scooped up a ball that drew sophomore first baseman Bill Rowe off the bag and fired it to a sprinting Martin, who barely beat speedy Aztec shortstop James Guerrero to first base to complete the amazing play.
“Chris was huge on defense,” Martin said. “He made four great plays in the hole.”
SDSU senior righty Chris Hartshorn (2-1) was the hard-luck loser, going seven innings and matching Martin pitch for pitch with the exception of the lone run he allowed in the first frame. Junior pinch hitter Matt Stevens scored UCSB’s second run in the eighth inning on a productive out by sophomore outfielder Matt Emerick and a bloop single by senior third baseman Nate Sutton.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Guerrero lifted a short fly into center field that Emerick raced in to catch. The crowd of 684 held its breath as Emerick left his feet and came up with the catch inches above the grass, killing the Aztec rally.
“That ball needed to be caught,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Matt was a great impact player and was huge to the win.”
Santa Barbara beat SDSU on Friday, 8-2, getting five strong innings and seven strikeouts from sophomore pitcher Steve Morlock and three perfect innings of relief from senior pitcher Rich Sorenson. Senior catcher Taylor Vogt smashed a home run in his first at-bat of the season for the second straight year and was walked three times.
UCSB wasn’t as fortunate on Saturday, losing 8-5 thanks to a six-run Aztec first inning.
“We executed very well on defense, and our pitching has been very, very good,” Brontsema said. “We executed OK on offense, but all in all this is a great start.”