The tide may have turned for Gaucho baseball.
After a seven-game losing streak characterized by poor offensive production and inconsistent pitching, the UCSB baseball team scored five runs in the top half of the seventh inning against Pepperdine to win 10-6 yesterday, splitting the series 1-1 in Malibu and going into their three-game home series against Big West foe Long Beach State on a high note.
“It was about goddamn time,” starting pitcher Mario Hollands said. “Things started falling our way. [We had] timely hits, good pitching towards the end. It was just another good day – a good day to be a Gaucho.”
UCSB (24-19 overall, 11-14 Big West) was down 3-0 in the second inning before driving in five runs in the top of the third. Pepperdine (25-20) responded in the bottom of the inning, driving in three more to regain the lead at 6-5.
In the fourth, the Gauchos called in seldom-used freshman right-hander Matthew Brady from the bullpen, who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in only his fourth outing of the season. Junior right- handers Clayton Edwards and David Meals followed with scoreless innings of their own, maintaining the one-run deficit until the five-run breakout in the top of the seventh. Junior infielder Matt Valaika was credited with the game-winning double, bringing in senior outfielder Bryan Gump and junior infielder Steve Cook.
“We took good at-bats; we competed,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We haven’t come from behind too many times this year. [I hope] it parlays into a great weekend.”
With the win, the Gauchos still have a shot at playoff ball. However, Long Beach (10-5 overall, 14-9 conference) is riding a four-game winning streak, beating Pepperdine 10-5 in their last game on May 5. UCSB also must get through UC Riverside (28-14 overall, 7-8 Big West) on the road and UC Irvine at home. The Anteaters are the top-ranked team in the country.
“I like our chances against anybody in the country when we’re playing well,” Gump said. “I heard [Long Beach] is pretty hot right now, so it should be a fun series.”
The 49ers, whose unofficial team name is the Dirtbags, holds an 83-68 all-time record against the Gauchos. Highlighting the heart of their lineup is junior TJ Mittelstaedt, who is batting .320 with six home runs and 44 RBI. Junior left-hander Adam Wilk holds a 7-1 record and a 2.60 ERA as the Dirtbags’ ace. For the Gauchos, junior right-hander Joe Gardner holds a 6-1 record on the season and a 3.91 ERA. As of May 6, Gaucho senior infielder Eric Oliver leads the team with 41 RBIs and 53 hits on a .317 batting average. He holds a .722 slugging percentage in conference play.
Friday’s game against Long Beach will begin at 2 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the games will be played at 1 p.m. The series will take place at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. On Friday, the team will also honor catcher Doug Hansen and the research team that created the artificial pancreas for Diabetes Awareness Day. On Saturday, the first 100 fans will receive a free beach towel.
“We definitely have a hope [for the playoffs],” Gump said. “Hopefully, we can keep taking care of business.”