After beating up on little-known Marist the last time they played in Santa Barbara, the Gauchos (6-3 overall) showed the home fans that they can keep up with more talented teams as well, defeating Cal Poly (3-5 overall) 10-8 yesterday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Freshman righthander Jesse Meaux was knocked out of the game after only 3 1/3 innings of work, giving up five earned runs on 11 hits. Luckily for the Gauchos, Meaux’s counterpart in the other dugout struggled even more, as Cal Poly starter DJ Mauldin gave up seven earned runs in three-plus innings of work. From the fourth inning on, it was a battle of the bullpens, which ultimately benefited a UCSB staff that’s much deeper than it’s been in past years.
“We have some confidence in the pen and, for the most part, it’s been really good and it was good today,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said.
After plating a run in the bottom of the first and another in the bottom of the third, the Gauchos finally put a big number on the board in the fourth inning. Junior outfielder John DeAlba got things going with a laser over the right field wall before junior first baseman Eric Oliver busted the game wide open with a three-run mammoth blast down the left field line. Santa Barbara scored six runs in the frame to take an 8-5 lead.
“That was a great at-bat and [Oliver] got into that one pretty good,” Brontsema said. “He’s not necessarily a power guy, but that was about all he’s got right there, which is enough.”
After the teams traded runs over the next two innings, the Mustangs threatened again in the top of the seventh, plating two runs on a sacrifice fly and a bloop single to center before Oliver used every inch of his 6’1″ frame to snag a high chopper down the first-base line and get UCSB out of the inning.
The Gauchos went down in order in the bottom of the inning, but senior lefty Kyle Brown easily retired the side in the top of the eighth. Senior outfielder Chris Fox reached base with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and, after a balk and a steal of third, Fox slid in safe at home on a wild pitch for a crucial insurance run.
“We got some big hits and we got that extra run in the eighth which was really big. That extra run was a life-saver,” Brontsema said.
Brown returned to the mound for a third inning of work in an attempt to close things out, and Cal Poly immediately made things interesting after a leadoff single. The next two Mustangs would make good contact, but DeAlba ran a ball down in deep right before senior outfielder Mike Zuanich made an acrobatic catch down the left-field line. With the tying run at the plate, Brown settled down to induce a game-ending ground ball to first, clinching a 10-8 victory and earning the tall southpaw his first save of the season. Freshman righthander Forest Cannon pitched 1 2/3 crucial innings in relief of Meaux to earn his first win as a Gaucho.
UCSB returns to the field this afternoon with a one-game road trip to Northridge, beginning at 2 p.m.