Talk about a display of power. Just two days after suffering a disappointing extra-inning defeat at the hands of UC Davis, the UCSB baseball team bounced back in a big way, pounding out 29 hits – including six homeruns – on the way to a 25-3 victory over visiting Westmont. The homerun derby was headed by senior left fielder Mike Zuanich, who, with three deep blasts on Tuesday, including two to the opposite field, raised his team-leading homerun total to ten.
“You never expect to put up 25 runs on the board, but we had a good approach all game,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We hit it where they were throwing it, taking it the other way where the wind was blowing out.”
Zuanich was not alone in the offensive onslaught, as UC Santa Barbara (24-11 overall) also received long-balls from junior center fielder Brian Gump in the fourth, junior infielder Robby Cummings in the fifth and junior catcher Chris McMurray in the eighth as a pinch-hitter. Sophomore second baseman Gunnar Terhune would also have a career day at the plate with a five-hit effort, but no Gaucho would outshine Zuanich’s homerun hat trick, which catapulted him into first place in the Big West in the category.
“Zuanich has great power potential and ever since he made an adjustment in his swing his hitting has really come together,” Brontsema said.
The offense was not the only story for Santa Barbara, as four Gaucho relievers pitched exceptionally in support of starting senior right hander Michael Martin, allowing only one hit through seven innings. Freshman Jesse Meaux was especially impressive in his best outing of the season, tossing four shutout innings after replacing Martin to set the tone for the bullpen the rest of the way.
“The bullpen has been good for the most part, but they’ve had some games where they’ve came in and really shut things down,” Zuanich said. “Today was probably one of their best efforts of the season.”
The only blemish of the day for the Gauchos came from Martin, who allowed all three Warrior (8-27) runs, two of them earned, and four hits in two innings of work. The right hander was pitching on only two days rest after surrendering three runs and four hits in 2.1 innings of work in relief of senior Chuck Huggins in Sunday’s finale against Davis.
The 25-run outburst surpassed Santa Barbara’s offensive performance the first time the two squads met on March 25 when the Gauchos only put up six runs on the board in a 6-3 win. This time around, UCSB scored three times in the first inning to turn an early 2-0 deficit into a one-run lead. The Gauchos’ first huge inning came in the sixth when the team crossed the plate six times to extend their lead to 16-3. Despite the mammoth lead, UCSB’s offense made the most of its final at-bats of the game, tallying nine runs in the bottom of the eight to turn the game into a laughingstock.
“They pitched well last time against us, but this time we sat back on their pitches and were able to hit a lot of balls the other way,” Zuanich said. “We’re used to seeing guys who throw harder, and it didn’t help that we play in a hitters park.”
The victory gives the Gauchos momentum heading into a crucial three-game series against nonconference foe USC this weekend, with Friday’s and Sunday’s games at Caesar Uyesaka, and Saturday’s contest in Southern California.