Even with one of the best pitching staffs in the country, #10 Long Beach baseball couldn’t stop the Gauchos from swinging for the fences this weekend at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Santa Barbara (21-26 overall, 3-9 in the Big West) made use of its bats, pounding Long Beach’s starting rotation to take two games out of three, beating the Dirtbags (33-16, 11-4 Big West) 8-6 and 7-6 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Long Beach managed to salvage the series, beating the Gauchos 4-3 on Sunday for the first time in its last six meetings.
“Anytime you win the first two games of a series you want to sweep,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “But it was outstanding for our team to beat [Long Beach] and play as well as we did this weekend. I’m very pleased.”
The Gauchos took advantage of Dirtbag junior left-hander Cesar Ramos’ shaky control Friday, tallying seven runs in his three innings of work, including a two-run homer to right field by senior catcher Matt Kalafatis that ended Ramos’ stint on the mound.
Despite allowing four runs in the next two innings, Santa Barbara junior starting pitcher Steve Morlock recorded his fifth win of the year. Morlock was relieved in the sixth by sophomore right-hander Justin Segal, who allowed two runs in the top of the ninth before senior closer Alex McRobbie came in to record his 10th save on the year. With the save, McRobbie tied both the Gaucho single-season and career saves records with only a single pitch.
After taking one at-bat in the late innings of Friday’s game, senior second baseman Chris Malec made his first start on Saturday since undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.
Malec stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the first inning of Saturday’s game, before eventually pulling a fastball from junior right-hander Marco Estrada to deep right center for a monumental grand slam.
“It was pretty surreal,” Malec said. “I was just trying to drive the ball. I can’t believe it went over the fence. I was just trying to start out with something small. I’ve been feeling good all week and I’m just glad I’ve had the energy to play.”
Malec’s hit gave the Gauchos a lead they would never lose, but additional home runs from senior infielder Dave Figoni and senior right fielder Matt Wilkerson gave junior starting pitcher Michael Martin the run support he needed to bring his season record up to 5-5.
“We got some big hits all weekend and big at-bats came throughout our lineup,” Brontsema said. “In order to beat a team like Long Beach, you have to have threats like we did throughout the lineup.”
A record-setting 11th save on the season for McRobbie closed out Santa Barbara’s second consecutive victory, as well as marking the only time this season that a team has beaten Long Beach’s Estrada.
Mother’s Day wasn’t as kind to the Gauchos, however; a 3-3 tie through the last three innings of play was snapped in the top of the ninth by junior shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s single, which knocked in the winning run. Eleven strikeouts from Long Beach pitching stymied Santa Barbara’s offense and aided in the Dirtbag win.