A pair of ninth-inning rallies allowed the UCSB baseball team to escape Cal State Fullerton with a surprising series victory and move into third place in the Big West conference.
The Gauchos (21-22 overall, 9-6 in the Big West) trailed 6-3 heading into the ninth inning of Sunday’s series finale, but a four-run ninth put UCSB on top before senior Steve Morlock came on to close out the Titans (28-18, 8-7 Big West) for the second day in a row. After losing his job as a starter due to an arm injury, Morlock has rejuvenated a Gaucho bullpen that had been the team’s weakness all season long.
“The bullpen is the area where we’ve struggled a little bit so adding [Morlock] to the ‘pen takes some heat off of [senior closer Justin Segal],” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “That’s where he’ll stay right now because we have been getting good starts from [the starting rotation].”
After trailing for most of Sunday’s series finale, the Gauchos scored on a single, a fielder’s choice, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch in the ninth inning to take a 7-6 lead. Freshman catcher Steve Domecus got the rally going with an RBI single, and came around to score the tying run on a sacrifice fly from senior first baseman Robbie Blauer.
Morlock struck out two in the bottom of the inning to earn his third save in four appearances since returning to the bullpen. The senior saved nine games in 2003 as a freshman before becoming a starter, and with two saves this weekend, the Gauchos now have two pitchers in the back of their bullpen with double-digit career saves.
“Having [Morlock and Segal] back there is going to give us some more depth in our bullpen and shorten the game a little bit for our starters,” Brontsema said.
The Gauchos won a wild one on Saturday, holding on in the bottom of the ninth for an 11-9 victory. The two teams combined for 27 hits, but it was a bases-loaded walk that allowed UCSB to score the game-winning run. With the bases juiced and the game tied at eight in the top of the ninth, senior right fielder Mario Lewis scored the go-ahead run when junior centerfielder Chris Fox drew a walk. Junior third baseman Patrick Rose followed with a two-run double to pad UCSB’s lead.
The Titans struck for three runs in the first inning of Friday’s series opener, and that was all junior right hander Wes Roemer would need, as he dominated the Gauchos en route to a complete game victory. The 2006 National Co-Player of the Year struck out 13 and allowed only six hits and one run to lead Fullerton to a 12-1 victory. Roemer improved to 7-5 on the year, while Gaucho junior lefthander Chuck Huggins dropped to 6-2 after giving up eight earned runs in 3.1 innings of work. UCSB broke up the shutout in the ninth inning on an RBI groundout from Blauer. The senior was the only Gaucho with multiple hits, as he finished 2-for-4 with a double.