Right-handed junior Jesse Meaux allowed only one run in eight innings in the Gaucho’s 4-1 victory over Long Beach State on Sunday, ending the team’s losing streak at five games and closing out the weekend series 1-2.

“It was a big win,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “We needed somebody to pick us up and carry us on his shoulders and Jesse did just that.”

With the Gauchos up 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Long Beach centerfielder Brennan Metzger hit a slow blooper to second base that would have brought in the tying run from second, but Gaucho junior second basemen Sean Williams dove, fielded the ball and threw a one-hopper from his knees to tag the runner out at home plate.

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Senior shortstop Matt Valaika takes a hack at a pitch against LBSU. Valaika went 2-for-9 with two runs batted in the weekend series to bring his team-leading RBI total to 27.

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[media-credit name=”Jarrick Goldhamer / Daily Nexus” align=”alignleft” width=”150″]April 10, 2010 - UCSB Baseball 3[/media-credit]

“It was a web gem for sure,” junior left-hander Mario Hollands said.

Brontsema added, “It was a special play. It would have been a huge momentum change, but Sean kept us with the lead.”

In the top of the ninth, the Gauchos drove in three more runs off three hits and an error by the Dirtbag shortstop, giving Meaux some breathing room heading into the bottom of the ninth. After Meaux allowed a single and a double to start the bottom of the inning, senior right-hander David Meals pitched for the final three outs, earning his second save of the season.

“[Sunday] we made the plays, and they didn’t,” senior centerfielder Gunnar Terhune said. “Jesse’s pitch count was so low, too. He threw first-pitch strikes and always got out the first batter.”

In Saturday’s 8-4 loss, a Dirtbag fourth-inning line drive hit junior right-hander Nick Capito on the forehead, but Capito escaped with a scratch on his nose and was able to walk off the field on his own.

“It was a low pitch, the guy got out in front of it, the ball goes 100 miles per hour plus off that bat,” Terhune said. “Thank god he was wearing his cap low. The ball caught his bill. Shit, the ball put his bill at a 90-degree angle.”

According to Terhune, only two minutes later Capito was in the dugout, giving his teammates high fives. Before he was struck, Capito allowed two hits and one run in three innings, striking out four. Brontsema confirmed that the ball had indeed bent the bill of Capito’s hat in half.

“His hat saved his life,” Brontsema said. “A guy laying face-down on the mound, it’s something you just don’t want to see out of your players, that’s for sure. Out of anybody, really.”

Right-handed junior Nick Loredo replaced Capito, allowing three runs in 3.2 innings. In the eighth inning, Long Beach broke loose with four runs off right-handed junior Greg Davis, who had only allowed one run in his previous 16.1 innings.

“Saturday, we didn’t get beat, we lost that game ourselves,” Terhune said. “We were in a situation where we could have easily won that game.”

In Friday night’s 12-1 loss, Hollands lasted only 3.1 innings, allowing 10 runs and 15 hits in his shortest outing of the season. Before Friday, Hollands had a 3.12 ERA, which was good enough for fourth place in a conference filled with major league pitching prospects.

“It was probably the worst game I’ve ever had in my pitching career,” Hollands said. “But it happens sometimes. I can’t worry too much about it.”

The Gauchos return home to face USC on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in a rematch of their 9-8 loss to the Trojans last week. They continue Big West play in a three-game weekend home series that begins on Friday at 2 p.m. UCSB has five more Big West series to play before the end of the regular season, which gives them plenty of opportunities to improve their conference ranking.

“[Sunday’s] win still puts us in a pretty good position,” Hollands said.