The UCSB baseball team overcame rainy weather and a tough San Jose State team to split its first series of the 2007 season. The Gauchos (1-1 overall) were shutout 2-0 in Saturday’s season opener before coming back on Sunday to beat the Spartans (3-3) 6-5 in 11 innings.
“It felt pretty good to get things started,” senior right fielder Mario Lewis said. “We would’ve liked to start off a little better, but guys were a little nervous. It was good to get that out of the way.”
The Gauchos took a 2-0 first inning lead in Sunday’s series finale when Lewis and senior catcher Matt Anderson delivered consecutive RBI singles. San Jose State came right back with a run in the second before taking the lead in the fourth on a two-run homer from senior center fielder Ryan Angel. Freshman second baseman Matt Valaika tied the game in the fifth with a solo home run before junior left fielder Mike Zuanich knocked in the go-ahead run with a one-out single.
Senior closer Justin Segal came on in the eighth but the Spartans tied the game when Segal was called for a balk with a runner on third. The game remained scoreless until the top of the 11th when Zuanich scored the game-winning run on a single by sophomore catcher Chris McMurray. Junior lefty Chuck Huggins (1-0) picked up his first career win and senior right-hander Brian Tracy came on for the save.
A strong Saturday start from senior right-hander Steve Morlock (0-1) went to waste when the Gaucho bats could scratch out only five hits in a shutout loss. Morlock scattered seven hits in five innings and struck out five Spartans while allowing one unearned run.
San Jose State got on the board early when sophomore shortstop John Shaffer scored on an RBI groundout in the first inning. The Spartan pitchers needed only one run, but Shaffer gave them a little breathing room by scoring again in the seventh inning. After drawing a one-out walk, Shaffer stole second and advanced to third on sophomore catcher McMurray’s second throwing error. A wild pitch from senior reliever Justin Aspegren allowed Shaffer to score and give SJSU a 2-0 lead.
UCSB twice had a runner on third with less than two outs, but the Gauchos were unable to cash in on either opportunity. Santa Barbara threatened again in the seventh when Spartan reliever sophomore Greg Shannon walked the bases loaded with two outs, but Valaika flied out to right field to end the inning.
Aside from battling each other on the field, the two teams fought the weather throughout the weekend in an attempt to get the games in. Friday’s game was postponed due to rain and a scheduled Saturday doubleheader turned into one game. The weather forced a change of venue and the cancellation of the third game, but the Gauchos tried to take everything in stride.
“You try not to think about it. Once you get out on the field, you don’t worry about the rain,” Lewis said.
The Gauchos open their home schedule this weekend with a three-game series against the University of Hawaii, with the first game beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday.