After an inconsistent start to the Big West season, the UCSB baseball team finally put it all together this weekend in a three-game sweep of Pacific.
The Gauchos (15-18 overall, 4-2 in the Big West) have now won four out of their last five following a season high six-game losing streak. UCSB averaged nine runs per game in the series against the Tigers (9-28-1, 0-6 Big West), and the bullpen was strong throughout the weekend, led by senior closer Justin Segal who closed out both weekend games.
“Any time you win a series in the Big West it’s huge, but if you can sweep somebody that’s great,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Our middle relief had kind of been scuffling, but [junior lefthander] Kyle Brown was very good in both his outings and [Segal] was outstanding.”
Senior southpaw Jeff Braun took the mound for Sunday’s series finale and turned in his strongest performance of the season to earn his first win. Braun allowed only seven hits and one earned run over six innings while striking out three and walking none. The former Saturday starter came into the game with a 0-5 record, but the performance likely earned him another shot in the starting rotation.
“That was [Braun’s] best outing of the year by far and we really needed it,” Brontsema said. “We were a little thin in the bullpen and he gave us what we needed. He threw all his pitches for strikes and I just thought he was outstanding.”
Senior right fielder Mario Lewis led the way offensively with his fourth homer in as many games, and senior first baseman Robbie Blauer and junior centerfielder Chris Fox added solo shots of their own. Fox finished with three hits and two runs scored.
UCSB held on for an 8-7 victory on Saturday to give the Gauchos their first series victory since mid March. Freshman right-hander Mike Ford allowed seven runs in 5.2 innings, but the bullpen stepped up to secure the victory for the Gauchos. Sophomore Matt Wade picked up his first victory of the season in relief, and Brown and Segal pitched three scoreless innings to close out the game. Freshman Cody Dee led the Gauchos with three hits and junior infielder Patrick Rose finished with two hits and two RBI.
After falling behind early in Friday’s series opener, the Gauchos scored 13 unanswered runs in a span of five innings to seemingly put the game out of reach. The Tigers battled back for five runs in the eighth inning and two more in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to erase their 11-run deficit as UCSB came away with a 14-9 win. Junior lefty Chuck Huggins allowed five hits and six walks, but he gave up only two runs in five innings to improve to 5-0 on the year. Five different Gauchos picked up at least two hits, led by Rose and Fox who finished with three apiece.
The homestand continues on Tuesday when UCSB takes on Westmont at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The Gauchos defeated the Warriors 11-2 in their last outing back in February.