NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – The fierce wind at Matador Field helped Cal State Northridge (4-3 overall) whip up a trio of home runs, but the Gauchos stormed back into the game with an eight-run eighth inning to win 10-7.
Santa Barbara (3-1 overall) entered the eighth frame trailing 6-1, managing only two hits in five innings off three different Matador relievers. CSUN freshman pitcher Cody Campbell took the ball from the successful relief corps, walked three of the four hitters he faced and uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch. Senior reliever Phil Polanco came in to clean up the mess with the scoreboard reading 6-2 but added to the Gaucho parade by allowing three hits, two walks, a hit batsman and five runs without retiring a single UCSB hitter.
Through seven innings, four Matador pitchers breezed through the UCSB lineup with an average of 13 pitches an inning, retiring Gauchos left and right.
“I wanted us to have more competitive at-bats, so we went into the eighth looking to draw extra pitches and walks,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We were taking [until we got] a strike intentionally, and they let us back into the ball game with walks.”
The three hits that UCSB collected in the pivotal eighth inning were big blows. Senior catcher Taylor Vogt smacked a bases-loaded single into left field for two runs, and senior designated hitter Greg Powers followed by knocking a chopper over the head of Matador first baseman Michael Paulk with the bags full for two more runs to make the score 9-6 Gauchos.
Vogt led all players with three hits, the last of which was a double with one out in the ninth. Sophomore outfielder C.J. Cook, seeing his first action of the season, singled Vogt in to round out the scoring for UCSB.
Redshirt freshman Andy Graham made his first collegiate start on the hill for UCSB and lasted six innings, yielding five earned runs courtesy of three Matador home runs. Despite throwing first-pitch strikes and not walking any hitters, the Matadors keyed in on Graham’s strategy, swung freely and used the high winds to their advantage.
“Andy threw strikes, and his poise and command were good,” Brontsema said. “Northridge is an aggressive, fastball-hitting club, and we always want to get strike one.”
The combination of the two mentalities accounted for the home runs. The first two were hit on first-pitch fastballs and the second, off the bat of junior outfielder John Voita, was off a 0-1 pitch.
Junior pitchers Loren Fraser and Nate Holguin both pitched an inning for UCSB and allowed one run each, but Fraser pitched the bottom of the seventh and was the beneficiary of the eighth inning Gaucho explosion, picking up his first win of the season. Senior closer Aaron Jones coaxed three consecutive groundouts from the Matadors in the ninth inning for his second save of the young season. The Matadors used eight pitchers in the slugfest.
UCSB will take on the San Jose State Spartans (1-2-1 overall) at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for a three-game series this weekend. Friday’s game will begin at 2 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday’s start times are slated for 1 p.m.