Los Angeles, Calif. – The UCSB baseball team (8-6) came from behind to force extra innings for the first time this season, but UCLA (10-3) successfully defended its home turf Tuesday afternoon.
The Bruins beat Santa Barbara 3-2 at Jackie Robinson Stadium in a 12-inning spectacle. Light-hitting sophomore Bruins catcher Chris Denove snapped an 0-for-14 slump with a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning with nobody out to seal UCLA’s sixth straight victory.
“UCLA won this game with defense,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said disappointedly after the game. “I would rather it had been us [winning the game], but they kept themselves in the game with defense, and that was the difference.”
The Bruins flashed the leather often enough to keep the first Gaucho hitter of every inning off base through the 10th inning, causing UCSB to strand a total of 13 runners. Senior catcher Taylor Vogt led off the eighth inning and was robbed of a base hit by a well-timed dive by Bruins junior shortstop Ryan McCarthy, who plucked the ball out of the air on one hop and fired to junior first baseman Wes Whisler for the first out of the inning. That turned out to be the biggest out of the frame, as UCSB jammed the bases on a single and two walks, and then scored two runs on a bases-loaded walk and a subsequent wild pitch by Bruins junior hurler Kyle Wilson.
Santa Barbara got aggressive in the fourth inning, attempting to wheel sophomore left fielder C.J. Cook around from first base on freshman shortstop Chris Valaika’s two-out double to right center field. Bruins senior center fielder Chad Concolino scooped up the ball and fired it to senior second baseman Mike Svetlic, who pivoted and hosed Cook at the plate by an eyelash.
“It was a textbook relay,” Brontsema said. “They had a lot of rally-killers that lifted them up.”
The Gauchos left two men on base in the third inning after Vogt struck out and Denove picked Gaucho junior second baseman Chris Malec off first base. Two were left high and dry in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings as well, but Santa Barbara had its best chance to take its first lead in the 11th inning.
Valaika drew a walk from Wilson to open up the frame, and sophomore center fielder Matt Emerick punched a risky bunt between Wilson, Whisler and Svetlic to reach on an infield hit. Senior third baseman Nate Sutton’s attempted sacrifice bunt was caught on the fly in foul territory, and Valaika was thrown out trying to advance to third on a pitch in the dirt, sending the Gauchos out of the inning without a run.
UCLA struck for single runs in the first and second innings, plating its first after Concolino reached on an error, stole second, advanced to third on a balk and was finally driven in by Whisler. The Bruins pushed their lead to 2-0 in the second inning after Gaucho freshman pitcher Brian Tracy plunked Bruins junior left fielder Matt Thayer, who swiped second and scored when Svetlic dumped a single into right field.
Although UCSB relievers freshman Andy Graham, senior Ivan Ramirez and junior Nate Holguin held the Bruins in check for most of the game, Santa Barbara junior hurler Loren Fraser threw the fateful pitch that lost the game and dropped his record to 2-1 on the season.
UCSB returns to action on Friday when the Gauchos travel to University of New Mexico (1-7-1) for a three-game series.