After starting out its weekend against Hawaii with a complete game three-hitter from senior right-hander Steve Morlock, the UCSB baseball team was unable to find the solid pitching it needed in order to win the three-game series. But while Hawaii’s bats kept the Gauchos on the field over the weekend, Santa Barbara found plenty of time at the plate Tuesday when it clobbered crosstown rival Westmont 11-2.
Morlock’s career-high nine strikeouts led the Gauchos (3-3 overall) to a 3-1 victory in their season home opener Friday, but Hawaii (9-3) bounced back Saturday with a similar performance from Rainbow left-hander Mark Rodrigues. Rodrigues only allowed three hits while striking out four batters in a full nine innings of work to record his fourth win on the year.
The only run the Gauchos could muster came in the bottom of the fifth inning – a blast over the left field fence off the bat of junior outfielder Mike Zuanich. The shot marked Zuanich’s first career home run for Santa Barbara, and was one of his two hits on the day. The only other Gaucho to reach base was senior first baseman Robbie Blauer, who went one for three at the plate with a single.
Senior left-hander Jeff Braun started Saturday’s game with five scoreless innings while only receiving a single run of support from the Gauchos’ offense. Braun began the sixth inning, but was taken out of the game with two runners on base that would eventually score off of junior left-hander Kyle Brown in relief. Hawaii grabbed all the runs they needed in the top of sixth, eventually tagging on three more runs in next four innings to win the game 5-1.
With the series tied at one, Santa Barbara sought a series victory Sunday by putting the game’s first two runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second. Freshman right-hander Mike Ford started the game with two scoreless innings, striking out five Hawaii batters, but was charged with two earned runs in the third after being pulled with control problems. Six Gauchos pitchers were called upon in relief, but the Rainbows were able to tally seven more runs before the final out.
“We expect big things from Mike Ford,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Three of his last four outings have been good, real good. We don’t have a lot of strikeout pitchers, but he’s one of them.”
After allowing two runs in the second inning, Rainbow starting pitcher Joshua Schneider threw five more scoreless innings before reliever Tyler Davis kept the Gauchos off the bases for the final two innings. The only Gauchos to find much success against the Rainbow pitching staff were junior outfielder Chris Fox, who went three for four from the plate with an RBI, and freshman second baseman Matt Valaika , who went one for three with an RBI and a run scored.
“I think [Hawaii] pitched well, no question. But we made better contact over the weekend than we did [against Westmont],” Brontsema said.
After demolishing Westmont (1-9) 16-1 in last season’s meeting, Santa Barbara was able to plate 11 runs in a victory that produced the first hit of the season from freshman shortstop Shane Carlson and a three-for-five afternoon from Blauer, who recorded a triple and two doubles with three RBI and two runs scored. Senior right-hander Michael Martin grabbed the win for the Gauchos, despite only throwing three innings of work and allowing one run in the first inning. Westmont’s pitching was sporadic at best throughout the game, as the Gauchos scored in every inning except the seventh.
“The walks early on got us going,” Brontsema said. “And it was nice for Blauer to come up with guys on base and in scoring position. We did a good job of getting run production.”