Though he began the season as UCSB’s third starter, junior transfer Nick Capito has quickly adapted to pitch ing like an ace. In his first ever series-opening start, the left-hander out of Santa Ana Junior College tossed his second consecutive complete game, blanking Sacramento State 9-0 at Hornet Field yesterday afternoon.

“[Capito] doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he makes up for that by throwing strikes and locating his pitches,” junior right fielder Mark Haddow said.

Taking nothing away from Capito’s shutout that included six strikeouts to two walks, the Gaucho defense deserves a lot of credit for one of their more impressive efforts this season.

“The defense played well behind [Capito] and made it that much easier for him,” junior starting pitcher Mario Hollands said. “The diving plays all over the field really stood out to me.”

Capito nearly lost his first career shutout in the bottom of the ninth when Sacramento’s Jake Chilton launched a deep shot into right, but Haddow took the home run away with a miraculous snag over the outfield wall.

“I got a good break on the ball, stuck my glove up there and managed to come down with it,” Haddow said. “I played pretty bad in the outfield last week, so I worked hard in practice to get my timing down.”

The UCSB offense timed its swings to a tee, banging out double-digit hits for the second straight game. Sophomore third baseman Ryan Palermo launched his second home run of the season, while junior middle-infielders Sean Williams and Beck Wheeler connected for their first four-baggers of the season.

“Everything was clicking … we couldn’t do anything wrong today,” Hollands said.

Before they look ahead to Big West competition, Santa Barbara will try to wrap up this three-game nonconference series with the Hornets, continuing tomorrow with Hollands (2-1) taking the hill. The lanky lefty is currently ranked third in the conference with 39 strikeouts and fourth in ERA, allowing 2.91 runs per nine innings.

“I expect the same [kind of] start as Nick had today,” Haddow said. “He always gives us a great chance to win if we can score a couple runs behind him.”

Right-handed junior Jesse Meaux (4-1) will pitch in the series finale, entering with a stingy 2.91 ERA over five starts.

After Capito’s strong showing, the three regular starters have a combined 9-4 record and an ERA right around three.

With a four-game losing streak over spring break in their peripheral, the Gauchos are starting to gain momentum heading into conference play, which starts on April 9 against rival Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.