A triple scoop of wins would have been extra sweet for the UCSB men’s baseball team (5-2 overall) playing in the Dairy Queen Classic, but after falling to host Minnesota on day one, the Gauchos could only come out of the weekend tournament with a 2-1 record.
“We’re happy with it [going 2-1], but we’re not satisfied,” senior center fielder Brian Gump said. “We definitely feel like we should have gone undefeated.”
Santa Barbara was set on sweeping the opposition heading into the Metrodome, but the Golden Gophers put an abrupt halt to the team’s aspirations with a 13-3 blowout in Friday’s tournament opener. After tossing eight shutout innings in his first start against Bakersfield, last year’s Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year Mario Hollands was hit around through six innings, giving up six earned on nine hits.
A potent Gaucho offense that had been averaging nearly eight runs a game heading into the DQ Classic could not muster its usual output facing Minnesota starting pitcher Chauncy Handran, managing only three hits including sophomore right fielder Mark Haddow’s first home run of the season.
“We were shaking off the travel rust a little bit, and came out a little flat,” Gump said. “We got in late the night before and had to wake up early, but we still should have won that game.”
After a disappointing beginning to their North Star State road trip, UCSB rebounded in a big way, pounding Hawaii 10-4 on Saturday before taking down Washington 8-2 in Sunday’s finale.
Junior starting pitcher Joe Gardner struck out eight in seven and two-thirds innings while limiting a dangerous Rainbow offense to three runs. Not to be outdone, fellow junior right hander Mike Ford returned to form after a gritty start against UCLA last week, lasting seven and two-thirds against Washington while giving up only two runs despite taking the mound while under the weather.
“They [Gardner and Ford] both pitched phenomenally,” Gump said. “Ford gave it all he could even though he wasn’t feeling too good, and came up with a big performance.”
The Gaucho offense made a triumphant return behind the pair of wicked righties, unleashing 14 hits on both Hawaii and Washington respectively. The middle infield was particularly impressive taking part in both hit parades. Senior second baseman Matt Valaika went 6-for-10 with five runs scored and four batted in over the two-game span, while junior shortstop Ryan Cavan, filling in defensively for banged up senior shortstop Shane Carlson, had six hits of his own, including a four-hit showing on Sunday.
After taking down two out of three, UCSB exits Minnesota riding a wave of momentum, along with an appreciation for warm weather, back to California.