A split in a pair of ninth-inning nail biters and a blowout win in the series finale had the UC Santa Barbara baseball team (21-9 overall, 5-1 in the Big West) take down two out of three on the road versus Pacific (6-22, 1-5 in the Big West). All three weekend starters for the Gauchos pitched like true aces, but a late-inning Tiger rally allowed Pacific to steal a win on Saturday before the Santa Barbara line-up awoke like a sleeping giant on Sunday, busting out for 12 runs on 16 hits.

“All our starters were throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead in the count,” junior centerfielder Brian Gump said. “We didn’t give them the best run support this weekend, but our middle to bottom of the line-up guys picked up the slack and it really showed in our game today [Sunday].”

The Gauchos might have been caught a little off-guard in Friday’s series opener, as Pacific jumped out to an early advantage, with Tiger second baseman Adam Ching going yard off of sophomore starter Mike Ford (3-2, 2.64 E.R.A.) in the first inning to end Ford’s season-long homer-less streak. UCSB would trail for nearly the entire contest, setting the stage for junior second baseman Steve Cook’s ninth-inning heroics with the Gauchos trailing 4-3.

Cook, who has been starting the majority of games at second since sophomore infielder Matt Valaika went down with an injury, knocked a pitch from Tiger’s reliever Cole Akins into the left-center gap to plate senior third baseman Patrick Rose and freshman right fielder Mark Haddow. Junior reliever Zach Samuels (2-1, 3.60 E.R.A.) would throw three innings in relief of Ford, including a scoreless bottom of the ninth, to complete the Gauchos’ comeback victory 5-4.

“In his past few starts, Mike [Ford] hasn’t been as dominant as we’ve seen in the past, but he’s making great strides in every start he makes to correct whatever isn’t going right for him,” Gump said.

In Saturday’s game, Pacific would return the favor, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth off of senior pitcher Michael Martin (3-1, 3.24 E.R.A.) for a comeback win of their own. Freshman Mario Hollands (3-1, 2.70 E.R.A.) would pitch brilliantly in seven innings of work, using his go-to slider to help him record five strikeouts, but Martin, who has appeared much more comfortable in a starting role this season, could only record one out in the ninth on a sacrifice before allowing two runs to seal the deal for the Tigers 4-3.

“It was a little surprising that Pacific came out as strong as they did in the first two [games], but like I’ve said in the past, no game against any team in the Big West is a given,” Gump said.

After battling for two straight days with the team currently sitting at the bottom of the Big West overall standings, the Gauchos would show they were the team to be beat in game three of the series in a dominating 12-2 victory. Junior shortstop Shane Carlson and junior catcher Chris McMurray would both knock in four runs in the game, and senior left fielder Mike Zuanich would go two-for-two with two walks to cap off a successful 5 for 10 series for the Gauchos RBI leader (31). Senior left hander Chuck Huggins (6-1, 3.38) would continue his streak of quality starts, allowing two runs on only three hits in seven innings.