The UCSB baseball team matched #18 UC Irvine hit for hit throughout the weekend, before eventually dropping the series two games to one.

The Gauchos (17-20 overall, 5-4 in the Big West) dropped to sixth place in the conference while the Anteaters (28-11-1, 7-5 Big West) moved up to fifth. Despite the series loss, UCSB showed that it is capable of hanging with the top teams in the conference, as UC Irvine has been nationally ranked for most of the season.

“I hope the guys believe that they can [beat good teams] and I think they do,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position. We need to be consistently good from here on out and who knows what will happen.”

Sunday’s series finale was delayed an hour and a half by rain, but the fans that stuck around were treated to another close game, with the Anteaters holding on for a 7-6 victory. UCSB loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but pinch hitter Matt Anderson flied out to end the game. Senior lefty Jeff Braun went eight innings for the Gauchos, giving up five earned runs on six hits. The left side of the infield led the way offensively as junior third baseman Patrick Rose and sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson combined for five hits, including a home run from Rose.

The big story in Saturday’s 6-5 win was senior closer Justin Segal, who came on in the seventh inning for a rare three inning save. With the Gauchos leading 6-4 after six innings, Brontsema handed the ball to his best reliever and never looked back, even when Segal loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth. The rubber armed Segal gave up seven hits, but he did a good job of working out of jams to pick up his seventh save of the season.

“We stretched him out more than we would have liked to but we thought it was a very important game,” Brontsema said. “He’s our best guy out of the pen and we were going to live and die with what we did. Normally that’s worked out pretty well for us and obviously it did again.”

Freshman right-hander Mike Ford started the game for the Gauchos and went six strong innings for the second win of his career. Ford allowed only two earned runs and struck out six in six innings of work before giving way to Segal.

The Anteaters broke Friday’s game wide open with a five run fifth inning en route to a 10-5 victory. Junior southpaw Chuck Huggins picked up his first loss as a Gaucho after giving up six earned runs in 5.1 innings. Senior first baseman Robbie Blauer and freshman designated hitter Cody Dee both hit homers to provide most of the offensive production for the Gauchos.

After finishing the home stand 5-2, the Gauchos will now hit the road to take on Cal State Northridge (13-28, 1-8 Big West) in a three game series beginning Friday.