Fortunately for the seven seniors from the UCSB baseball team, there is still one more series remaining in their college careers.
After dropping two out of three to Irvine this weekend, the Gauchos (23-30 overall, 5-13 in the Big West) will have a chance to finish the season on a positive note next weekend at Northridge.
The Anteaters (30-23 overall, 9-9 Big West) dropped a close game Friday 4-3 before coming back to take the series with a 12-3 win Saturday and a 9-5 win Sunday.
“Obviously, I have a lot of good memories here [at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium]. That’s what I’m taking away from this weekend,” senior right fielder Matt Wilkerson said. “We played hard and played some close games this weekend. [Sunday] was a tough loss but I think we played well.”
Down 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh Sunday, it appeared the seniors would have their way with Irvine on Senior Day.
With two outs, senior third baseman Dave Figoni hit an RBI single, shrinking the Anteater lead to one. Senior shortstop Chris Malec got behind in the count 0-2 before working his way back to drive a 3-2 pitch into the right field corner to bring Figoni home and tie the score at five.
“[The seniors] gave their all. They busted their tails like they all have for two to five years for me,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “When push comes to shove, you don’t always win and you just have to hang your hat on the effort you put out.”
With runners on first and third and two outs at the top of the eighth, senior closer Alex McRobbie came in, allowing four runners to score. Irvine sophomore right-hander Blair Erickson earned the save.
“Sometimes taking the negatives from a weekend can be something positive,” Brontsema said. “When you go through hell, you have to pick something out of it. We can complain about bad calls or injuries, but we just didn’t play a clean game. If we had, we would have won.”
A six-run first inning helped lead up to the Gauchos’ 12-3 pounding Saturday. Irvine senior starter Steve Schroer allowed just three runs on seven hits spread over seven innings. Junior designated hitter R.J. Brown went 3-5 with two runs and two RBI to lead the Anteaters.
In a pitcher’s duel on Friday, Santa Barbara earned its lone win of the weekend with a quality start from junior right-hander Steve Morlock. In seven innings pitched, Morlock allowed just one run on seven hits while walking just one.
The Gauchos broke through a 1-1 tie in the seventh when Wilkerson followed a leadoff single with a two-run homer to give the Gauchos a 3-1 lead. The home run, Wilkerson’s 12th of the season, tied the UCSB career record of 41 set by David Willis in 1997.
With two outs, senior catcher Matt Kalafatis hit a sacrifice fly to bring home junior first baseman Bill Rowe, extending the lead to 4-1 and scoring what would be the last Gaucho run of the game.
The Anteaters threatened to tie in the eighth before being shut down by McRobbie. Closing out the game with 1.1 innings of one-hit baseball, McRobbie earned his 12th save of the season.
The series was filled with conflict between Brontsema and the umpiring crew. After numerous disputes on Saturday, including a potentially illegal Irvine bat, Brontsema was ejected Sunday in the bottom of the third after arguing a ruling on a foul ball.
“I don’t think [the umpires] could answer for themselves this weekend,” Brontsema said. “That’s why I got thrown out, because [the umpire] wouldn’t answer my question. I didn’t swear at him or anything. I got thrown out for his stupidity.”