After a blowout win on Friday, the UCSB baseball team split a pair of dramatic games over the weekend to come away with a series victory against Cal State Northridge.
The Gauchos (19-22 overall, 7-5 in the Big West) piled up 23 runs on 35 hits in taking two out of three games from the Matadors (14-30 overall, 2-10 Big West). The lineup relied heavily on the continued slugging of senior first baseman Robbie Blauer and junior leftfielder Mike Zuanich, along with a big weekend from junior third baseman Patrick Rose, who reached base seven times in the three games.

“[Rose] has been a big addition with the way he’s swinging the bat,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Since we moved him up in the order, we were able to move [senior right fielder Mario Lewis] down in the lineup where he can drive in some runs. [Blauer] has been consistent the whole time and Zuanich has really been able to help us as well.”

The Gauchos rallied behind a strong start from senior lefthander Jeff Braun to take Sunday’s rubber game 5-4. The Matadors loaded the bases in the ninth, but senior closer Justin Segal induced a double play to end the game. Braun gave up four earned runs and struck out seven in 7.1 innings of work to pick up his second win of the year. Blauer, Rose and Zuanich led the way offensively, combining for seven of the Gauchos 12 hits.

UCSB dropped a heartbreaker on Saturday, when the Matadors scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a come-from-behind victory 6-5. The Gauchos fell behind early, but used a four-run fourth inning to get back in the game before taking the lead in the eighth inning on back-to-back hits from Lewis and freshman second baseman Matt Valaika. Segal came on for the save, but a two-out single from Northridge sophomore Richard Cates brought in the winning run to snap the Matadors’ nine-game losing streak.

A rare power outburst allowed the Gauchos to take Friday’s series opener, 13-7. Zuanich led the way, going three-for-five with a home run and a career-high five RBI. Lewis added his team-high sixth home run of the year and junior centerfielder Chris Fox blasted his third round tripper. Every regular picked up a hit, a good sign for an offense that was extremely top heavy earlier this season.

“We need all those guys to do well and to continue to do well because we just can’t sit there and rely on [Robbie Blauer],” Brontsema said. “We’re not a team of stars, we’re a team, so we need all our guys to pick it up and pull their weight.”

After facing one of the worst teams in the league, the Gauchos will now face one of the best, when they take on Cal State Fullerton (27-15, 7-5 Big West) for a three-game series beginning next Friday night in Fullerton.