It took four tries but the UCSB baseball team picked up its first Big West series win by taking the first two games of the weekend series against Cal State Northridge.
Strong pitching paced the Gauchos (19-21 overall, 5-7 in the Big West) to a 4-2 win in the opener and an 8-4 victory Saturday, but the offense could only muster four hits as the squad fell 4-0 in the finale. The series win was the first for Santa Barbara since the beginning of April.
“Coming off the win on Tuesday and carrying it over to this weekend gives us some good thoughts heading into a big conference series against [Cal State] Fullerton,” Pitching Coach Tom Myers said.
Junior pitcher Andy Graham turned in his best outing of the year Friday, limiting the Matadors (19-22, 3-8 Big West) to two runs in 8.1 innings. Freshman third baseman Shane Carlson brought the winning run home by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning.
“[Graham] has come off some rough first couple of innings and he came out and was dominant from the start,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He gave us the lift that you look for from your Friday guy.”
Santa Barbara got another quality start from junior pitcher Jeff Braun who allowed just two unearned runs through six innings Saturday en route to his third-straight no decision.
“He did everything really well and I have nothing but high praise for his outing,” Brontsema said. “If it wasn’t for Jeff this game could have been ugly early.”
Despite the quality pitching, the Gauchos found themselves down 4-1 in the seventh. The first eight batters reached base in the inning and the squad scored seven runs, capped by junior first baseman Robbie Blauer’s three-run double.
“We’ve been hitting balls hard lately and the ball fell,” Blauer said. “But our pitching is what has been keeping us in it this weekend; it’s definitely been amazing.”
The UCSB offense failed to find its rhythm in the finale as Northridge freshman pitcher Edwin Quirarte threw a complete game four-hit shutout. The Matadors provided Quirarte with all the offense he would need with sophomore designated hitter James Scott’s first inning RBI double.
“Edwin did a very good job of minimizing his pitches and he kept our hitters off balance with his changeup,” Myers said.
The pitching staff allowed only ten runs on the weekend, the fewest in a series since the staff allowed nine to Cal in February. Coming into the series, the Gauchos had given up at least seven runs in five straight games.
“When we are able to get the leadoff hitter out things are a lot different for the opposition,” Myers said. “We did a better job of that this weekend. We were able to pitch to our capabilities.”