Baseball people use the phrase “good pitching beats good hitting” ad nauseum, but time and time again it holds true. On Thursday night, the #10 Irvine Anteaters (21-6-1, 1-0 in the Big West) threw a wrench into the Gauchos’ run-scoring machine, receiving a five-hit, 7-0 shutout from junior pitcher Brett Smith to begin conference competition.
Smith (6-0, 1.93 ERA) fanned 13 and walked just two, allowing only seven UCSB baserunners and holding them as far as second base from wire to wire. With his sixth win of the season, Smith won the battle of the unbeatens, with Santa Barbara sophomore hurler Michael Martin (8-1, 3.69 ERA) suffering the loss in his shortest outing of the season.
The top of the first inning proved to be the most promising for the Gauchos (20-11, 0-1 in the Big West), even though Smith retired UCSB senior third baseman Nate Sutton, as well as the first batter in every other inning, to lead off the game. Senior first baseman Greg Powers earned a full-count walk and reached second base on senior designated hitter Taylor Vogt’s two-out single into left field. Smith struck out slugging Gaucho right fielder Matt Wilkerson to end the threat and switched on cruise control from that point forth.
The game had the earmarks of a pitching duel the way Irvine played small ball to score its first run of the game in the second inning. When sophomore designated hitter R.J. Brown singled, he was moved over by a sacrifice bunt and scored on junior right fielder David Kennedy’s base hit up the middle. UCI blew it open in the third inning, however, with three runs thanks to RBI singles by Brown and sophomore center fielder Erik Johnson and a sacrifice fly by senior second baseman Matt Fisher.
Fisher struck again in the next inning, smacking a two-run double to left field to make it 6-0, and Martin’s day was done while the fifth inning was in progress after issuing a one-out walk. Gaucho junior reliever Loren Fraser subsequently surrendered two hits and Martin’s baserunner came around to score, making Martin responsible for all seven runs.
UCSB redshirt freshman Andy Graham (2-1, 2.57 ERA) will toe the rubber against Irvine junior lefty Glenn Swanson (5-1, 3.76 ERA) in the second game of the three-game series tonight at 6.