The UCSB baseball team dropped a heart-breaking sweep over the weekend to #16 Long Beach State, effectively ending any hopes of competing for a conference title.
The Gauchos (21-25 overall, 9-9 in the Big West) led both weekend games, before imploding in the late innings, allowing the Dirtbags (34-14, 13-2 Big West) to extend their winning streak to 12 games.
“Our guys take good at bats in really key situations, and we just try to grind it out for nine innings,” Long Beach State Head Coach Mike Weathers said. “We’ve had a lot of come-from-behind wins. It’s been quite a run for us.”
UCSB took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning of Sunday’s series finale, before senior closer Justin Segal gave up a scoreboard clearing three-run blast to Long Beach State outfielder Jason Corder. Neither team threatened again until the bottom of the ninth, when the Gauchos stranded the winning run on second with one out. With two runners on and one out in the top of the 11th, Segal induced a potential inning-ending double play ball but junior second baseman Patrick Rose couldn’t handle a low throw to second. The error allowed the lead run to score, and after an intentional walk loaded the bases, outfielder Chris Nelson blasted a grand slam to give Long Beach State a 9-4 lead. Segal pitched a season-high four innings, giving up eight runs, six of them earned.
“We felt like we had our best guy on the mound [in Segal] and we’re going to go with our best guy,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “I definitely don’t regret trying to win a ball game.”
Junior lefty Kyle Brown relieved Segal, but the Dirtbags continued to blast off, hitting two more runs before sophomore Matt Wade came on to finally end the nightmare inning. The loss wasted another strong outing from senior southpaw Jeff Braun, who gave up only one run in 6.1 innings of work.
“[Saturday] was devastating and we needed something to jumpstart us and give us life,” Brontsema said. “Jeff gave us exactly what we needed and then some, but unfortunately he didn’t get rewarded.”
The Gauchos blew a golden opportunity on Saturday to take game two of the series, when the Dirtbags scored six ninth-inning runs to take a 10-8 victory. After a run of successful outings since his return from injury, senior right-hander Steve Morlock was unable to close out the Dirtbags, giving up six runs on six hits, including two homers. Freshman right-hander Mike Ford struck out a career-high 10 batters, but came away with a no-decision. Senior first baseman Robbie Blauer and sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson picked up three hits apiece to lead the Gauchos, and junior left fielder Mike Zuanich blasted his fifth home run of the year.
UCSB out-hit Long Beach State 12-9 in Friday’s series opener, but the Dirtbags scrapped their way to an 8-3 victory. Freshman second baseman Matt Valaika led the way offensively for the Gauchos with his sixth home run of the season.