After Cal State Bakersfield knocked the Gaucho bullpen around in the fifth inning by driving in seven runs, it looked as though the Roadrunners (8-25) were ready to live up to their title and run away with an upset on the road. A resilient UC Santa Barbara baseball team (20-10) had other ideas, though, and powered by a pair of wind-aided homers from senior outfielder John DeAlba and freshman catcher Bryce Tafelski, UCSB would come all the way back to edge out an 8-7 win.
“[The fifth] inning took a little wind out of us, no pun intended, but we played with good energy the rest of the way and pulled it out,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said.
With heavy winds gusting out to right field, a CSUB offense that the Gauchos shut out in their previous matchup blew through Santa Barbara’s middle relief, highlighted by a base-clearing grand slam off the bat of Roadrunner leadoff hitter Brandon Boren in the fifth inning. Santa Barbara promptly responded in the home half, as DeAlba (.340 average, 2 HR, 9 RBI) blasted a two-run shot out to the Santa Ynez Mountains to put the Gauchos on the board.
“I need to find a way to get [DeAlba] more at-bats,” Brontsema said. “That was a legit[imate] homerun and, with the wind, that was maybe a five-hundred-footer.”
Tafelski (.318 average, 1 HR, 8 RBI), the other Gaucho to score on DeAlba’s homerun, crossed home once more in the following frame, this time on a tape measure shot of his own. The backup catcher’s opposite-field, three-run homer brought the score to 7-6, putting the home team well within reach of a midweek victory.
“I was looking [for the] outside fastball, got it to the right side, and the wind took care of the rest,” Tafelski said.
After an impressive power display from two of their top reserves, the heart of the Santa Barbara offense used small-ball and a couple Bakersfield defensive miscues to manufacture two runs to put them ahead at the final score of 8-7.
Having used six different relievers to labor through the first six innings, Brontsema went to his regular Sunday starter, junior right-hander Mike Ford (4-3, 5.86 ERA), to close out the game. Ford, a 2008 Third-Team All-American, looked like his old self on Wednesday, recording the final nine outs with four strikeouts to pick up an unconventional win.
“My mechanics have been awful, but my pitches felt a lot crisper today,” Ford said.
UCSB, winner of six of its last eight games, will look to carry its momentum into this weekend’s nonconference home series against San Jose State. Friday’s opener at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium will begin at 2 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday’s games slated for 1 p.m. starts.