Now that’s more like it.
After two good old-fashioned spankings and seemingly in the midst of another, the UCSB baseball team (24-17 overall, 2-7 in the Big West) put a halt to #30 Fullerton’s (23-17, 8-1) reign of dominance and backhanded the Titans by way of an eight-run eighth inning Sunday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The 13-7 victory marks the termination of Santa Barbara’s five-game losing streak, the first conference loss for Fullerton, and the first time UCSB has beaten the Titans since May 12, 2001.
“There’s nothing like beating Fullerton,” senior catcher Taylor Vogt said. “To beat a powerhouse like that is just huge.
In the two days previous, Fullerton demonstrated how they got their reputation, handily beating the Gauchos 9-2 and 8-0. Down 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth Sunday, UCSB seemed ill-fated once again until sophomore Bill Rowe singled up the middle to plate Vogt, and from that point on, the Gauchos looked like an entirely different team and would continue to scrape away at Fullerton’s lead. Santa Barbara scored in each inning after the fourth, grabbing their first lead of the series in the bottom of the eighth.
“I couldn’t be any prouder,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “To come back like that – a number of times. We’re going to enjoy this one, we needed this desperately.”
The Gauchos’ eighth inning explosion began with senior infielder Greg Powers taking a fastball on the arm from Fullerton reliever Scott Sarver. Sarver then issued four consecutive balls to junior second baseman Chris Malec and was quickly pulled. Titan pitcher Clark Hardman relieved Sarver but would fare no better. Hardman quickly gave up Fullerton’s last lead of the day on a Vogt ground-rule double that scored Powers and knotted the score 7-7. The tie would be the next thing to vanish for Hardman when junior right-fielder Matt Wilkerson roped a liner to left, scoring Malec and Vogt and putting Santa Barbara up for good.
“I was looking for something to lift just to get [Malec] in and I just sat on a changeup and drove it,” Wilkerson said.
After Friday and Saturday, Santa Barbara players felt like they had a lot to prove.
“We got the vibe that they don’t really respect us,” Malec said. “They think coming to Santa Barbara is just a three-day vacation, so to do this to them is unbelievable.”
Brontsema received yet another businesslike relief outing from junior pitcher Loren Fraser. The right-hander tossed three scoreless innings in relief of starting sophomore pitcher Steve Morlock, who was knocked out in the third inning. Junior reliever Alex McRobbie then matched Fraser’s performance with a silencing act of his own. McRobbie entered in the seventh with the bases juiced and one out and allowed just one run and one hit over the pending 2 2/3 innings.
The win gives the Gauchos much-needed momentum going into their three-game set with first place #7 Long Beach State this upcoming weekend. Santa Barbara will face Player of the Year candidate Jared Weaver in his home park.