A potential fairy tale ending turned into a disaster for senior pitcher Justin Aspegren and the UCSB baseball team yesterday afternoon against USC.
The Gauchos (23-28 overall, 9-9 in the Big Wes) fell behind early and never recovered, eventually losing 8-1 to the Trojans (27-26, 8-11 in the Pac-10). Making his first career start in his final week as a Gaucho, Aspegren gave up a leadoff home run and five runs total in two innings of work. The reward of starting turned out to be bittersweet for Aspegren, but fellow senior Robbie Blauer continued his own dream finish, extending his hitting streak to 19 games. It is the second streak of at least 19 games for Blauer, who has now picked up a hit in 48 of UCSB’s 51 games.
“[The streak] speaks to his consistency as well as his ability and his work ethic,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “He’s been a consistent player since day one and he’s been a tough out. [Blauer] has just put together a phenomenal year, and he’s been as good an offensive player as I can remember.”
While Blauer’s 1-for-4 day kept his run going, fellow streaker Chris Fox wasn’t as fortunate. The junior centerfielder grounded out twice and popped out twice as his hitting streak came to an end after 22 games. Fox was due up fifth in the ninth inning, but the Gauchos went down in order to keep him from getting one last chance to pick up a hit.
Four Trojan pitchers combined to hold the Gauchos to only four hits, with the one run coming on a third-inning homer from freshman designated hitter Steve Domecus. The backup catcher now has four home runs in only 34 at bats this season. Senior right fielder Mario Lewis and sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson picked up the other hits for the Gauchos.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the cold Gaucho bats was a USC lineup that pounded out 16 hits on the day. Junior second-baseman Matt Cusick got the Trojans off to a good start with a leadoff homer, his first of the year. Aspegren hung a 2-1 pitch to Cusick, and he left no doubt about where it would end up, swinging from the heels and blasting it over the right field fence.
After a double and a walk to leadoff the second inning, junior right fielder Roberto Lopez attempted to bunt the runners over, and ended up reaching base without a throw when no Gaucho could get to the ball in time. With the bases now loaded, the Trojans broke the game wide open with a two-run single, followed by an RBI double and an RBI groundout. The Gauchos trailed 5-0 after two innings, a deficit that they would never threaten.
With their nonconference schedule now exhausted, the Gauchos will turn their attention to this weekend’s pivotal conference matchup against Cal Poly (29-24, 10-8 Big West). UCSB goes into the series in sixth place in the Big West, but with a sweep of the Mustangs, the Gauchos could finish the season in fourth place.
“That would be a great accomplishment for this team, no question about it,” Brontsema said. “It’s a great conference, one of the top four conferences in the country, and to finish in fourth would be great for us. With all the tough breaks and injuries that we’ve had, I would consider that a great accomplishment. That’s what we’re shooting for.”