There is something about the black and yellow of Long Beach State that brings out the best in UCSB baseball.
The Gauchos (23-24 overall, 8-10 in the Big West) took the first two games from the second-place 49ers 8-6 and 4-1 before falling 3-1 in the finale. Santa Barbara has taken seven of the last nine from the Dirtbags (27-23, 10-5 Big West).
“I think we played better baseball,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Maybe we just feel comfortable against them or just raise our game to another level.”
Junior pitcher Jared Hughes could not slow down the UCSB offense and was roughed up for six runs on 10 hits in just 3.2 innings in the opener, while junior pitcher Andy Graham picked up his fifth win. Six Gauchos turned in multi-hit performances, including three off the bats of senior center fielder Matt Emerick, junior shortstop Chris Valaika, and junior first basemen Robbie Blauer. The squad pounded out 17 hits on the day.
“That’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful recently,” Brontsema said. “Combine that with the pitching we’ve been getting and its no secret why we’ve been playing well.”
Pitching dominated game two as 49er junior starter Andrew Carpenter allowed just one run through 7.2 innings, while UCSB junior starter Jeff Braun was nearly as dominant, giving up a single run in 6.2 innings while picking up yet another no decision.
“[Braun] has pitched well every time out and gives us a chance to win,” Brontsema said. “Obviously its something that we were missing the first part of the season but we’re glad to have it now.”
Junior right fielder Mario Lewis singled with one out in the ninth, followed by another single off the bat of freshman catcher Chris McMurray. Sophomore second basemen Alden Carrithers followed with a two run double to give Santa Barbara a 3-1 lead they would not give up as junior reliever Justin Segal nailed down his seventh save.
“Carpenter was dealing and when the relievers came in we jumped all over them,” Braun said. “Our hitters are always looking for opportunities and their bullpen gave them one.
The Sunday tandem of junior pitchers Brian Tracy and Bryan Fleming held Long Beach to one run through the first seven innings, but freshman reliever Clayton Edwards faltered in the eighth. Edwards issued a one-out walk followed by a double to put runners on second and third. After junior reliever Andrew Schoneberger walked a batter to load the bases, Segal came in and allowed a two run single to freshman first baseman Scott Bradley, giving The Beach a 3-1 lead.
“We had pitching, kept the ball down, kept their offense on the front foot,” Braun said.
UCSB sits in fourth place in the conference with one conference series remaining. The squad hosts #20 Pepperdine this Wednesday.