With a chance to improve its postseason resume, the UCSB baseball team failed to take advantage during a home contest against #13 Pepperdine, falling 7-3 yesterday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The loss was the Gauchos’ (29-14 overall) third in their last five games, and the squad fell behind in the season series against the Waves (27-13) 2-1, who defeated UCSB 14-3 in Malibu on April 2. The final meeting between the two clubs comes next Wednesday in Malibu.

In what turned out to be a pitcher’s duel for the first eight innings, Gaucho senior hurler lasted seven innings, surrendering a lone earned run and eight hits while striking out five. Michael Martin was matched by Pepperdine’s junior lefthander Robert Dickmann, who allowed three runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings of work. Dickmann appeared headed for a loss until the Waves came alive in the top of the ninth.

After a scoreless eighth inning from senior pitcher Kyle Brown, Santa Barbara handed the ball to junior righthander Zach Samuels, who commenced UCSB’s collapse. Samuels allowed a single to the first batter he faced and, after inducing the first out of the inning, allowed a double and a two-run single by junior outfielder Nate Simon, who knotted the game at three. Samuels was yanked after only 1/3 of an inning pitched, giving up three hits and three earned runs, while wasting Martin’s quality afternoon.

Things only got worse from there for the Gauchos, as junior hurler Patrick McIntyre could not hold down the powerful Wave offense. The first batter he faced laid down a bunt single to third base and former Gaucho Matt Aidem drew a walk to load the bases. In a tough spot with only one out, McIntyre yielded a grand slam to junior outfielder Eric Thames for the final runs of the game. McIntyre retired the final two batters of the inning, but Pepperdine had already turned a two-run deficit into a four-run lead that UCSB would not be able to overcome. The Waves’ bullpen picked up the slack after Dickmann’s departure, as freshman Tyler Hess and senior Nick Gaudi combined to throw 2.1 hitless innings with two strikeouts and only one walk.

Offensively, the Gauchos were paced by senior centerfielder Chris Fox, who had the only two-hit game for Santa Barbara and drove in two runs. Fox gave UCSB a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh, singling to right to bring home junior second baseman Steve Cook and sophomore designated hitter Gunnar Terhune after a sacrifice from junior rightfielder Brian Gump. The Redondo Beach native, Fox, with a team-leading .364 batting average increased his RBI total to 35, good for third on the squad. The Gauchos’ other run came by way of a solo home run by junior first baseman Eric Oliver, who belted a shot off Dickmann in the first inning for the game’s first run.

The bullpen meltdown wasted yet another dominating start from Martin (4-2), a sixth-year senior who has filled in admirably in his nine starts, compiling a 4.06 ERA. Martin has performed well as Santa Barbara’s fourth starting pitcher, allowing 57 hits in 57.2 innings, while walking 16 batters. Yesterday’s venture was much more successful for the veteran, who surrendered five runs in 6.1 innings in last Tuesday’s 7-0 loss to rival Cal State Northridge in a nonconference matchup.

Aside from Thames, who tallied a game-high 4 RBIs, the Waves benefited from offensive output throughout the lineup as the club notched 13 hits to UCSB’s eight. Simon drove in two runs on a pinch-hit double and senior rightfielder Donald Brown collected Pepperdine’s other RBI on a two-out single in the second inning to knot the game at two.

With a win, the Gauchos would have picked up a much needed win against a quality opponent. Instead, Santa Barbara hurt itself further in its hopes of reaching the postseason. UCSB currently finds itself sitting on the fence when it comes to being selected for a regional bid into the NCAA playoffs, with the toughest part of the schedule still to come. The Gauchos close the Big West season against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside at home, while traveling to Long Beach State and UC Irvine. The Titans, Dirtbags and Anteaters are all expected to head to the NCAA Tournament, meaning a quality showing down the stretch will greatly enhance UCSB’s chances of advancing beyond the regular season.