The good news this weekend for the UCSB baseball team was getting a 2-1 series victory over UCLA. The bad news is that Santa Barbara’s next shortstop may spontaneously combust when he steps foot on the infield dirt.
The Gauchos (19-18 overall, 1-2 in the Big West) sandwiched the weekend, winning Friday 9-4 and Sunday 4-3 while coming up just short Saturday in a 9-8 loss.
At the end of its first series without senior shortstop Chris Malec, who had surgery for testicular cancer Thursday, UCSB had regained a winning record and lost two more shortstops, making the official season total five shortstops out of the lineup due to injury.
“First we went through sickness and now it’s injuries,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “It’s been a challenge.”
After losing both sophomore Chris Valaika and junior A.J. Knox earlier in the season and Malec last week, replacement junior Travis LeBouf, started Saturday before injuring his ankle. Sunday’s starting shortstop, freshman Scott Cohen, made his first collegiate start only to come up lame with a hamstring injury after collecting his first career hit.
Fortunately for the Gauchos, the rest of the lineup continues to pick up the slack. Sunday, with two outs and a 2-1 UCSB lead in the sixth, senior third baseman Dave Figoni brought home the game-winner with a bases-loaded single into left. Figoni finished the weekend with three runs and two RBI.
“I think we’re playing really well despite all the injuries. Saturday was a tough game to lose,” Figoni said. “We definitely were hungry to win today. We really put the pressure on [UCLA] to win today.”
Quality pitching from junior starter Steve Morlock helped Santa Barbara to the win Sunday. Morlock threw 6.2 innings of one-run baseball, striking out six. Sophomore reliever Justin Segal continued his dominance out of the bullpen, holding the Bruins hitless for 1.1 innings. Segal has allowed just one run in his past 14 innings of work.
Saturday’s game saw UCSB come back from a 7-1 deficit. Two three-run home runs, one inside-the-park from senior catcher Matt Kalafatis and another from junior first baseman Bill Rowe, tied the game at eight.
UCLA junior first baseman Brett McMillan brought home the game-winner with a two-out RBI single in the eighth off of senior reliever Loren Fraser. The Gauchos stranded four runners in the eighth and ninth, allowing the Bruins to snap their 19-game losing streak.
Friday, at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles, UCSB made another late comeback, this time to win the game. With the bases loaded in the seventh, freshman designated hitter Matt Aidem cleared the bases with a triple to give the Gauchos the only lead they needed.
The Santa Barbara hitters combined to drive in 13 runs with two outs over the three game series. Up next, the Gauchos play a rematch with #23 USC this Tuesday before heading back into Big West play at home against Cal Poly next weekend.