It should have been a weekend of redemption for the Gaucho baseball team.
Instead, it was a weekend of more of the same, and worse, as the Gauchos were swept for the first time all season by a struggling UC Davis squad in their last three-game weekend series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, dropping to last place in the conference after Sunday’s 9-8 extra-inning loss on Senior Day.
“It was a disastrous series,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “It was very typical of how we’ve been playing lately.”
UCSB fell to 21-29 overall after the loss and 7-14 in the Big West. Davis improved to 8-13 in the conference and 25-27 overall.
After losing the first two games of the series, the Gauchos got off to a hot start on the windy Sunday afternoon, scoring all eight of their runs in the first five innings off of Aggie starting pitcher Scott Lyman.
The Aggies’ sophomore left fielder David Popkins, whose bat rocked the Gaucho pitching staff throughout the weekend, hit two home runs and two singles against UCSB right-handed junior Jesse Meaux, tallying four RBI against Meaux and his fifth after earning a walk with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.
“Popkins had a good approach to the plate. He used the wind to his favor a little bit,” Meaux said, referring to the 30 mph wind gusts at the stadium that pushed fly balls toward the fence.
Otherwise, Meaux pitched an outstanding game that was on pace to rival his complete-game outing against #27 UC Irvine last Sunday, in which he allowed only one run. Meaux shut out the Aggies for five innings, getting ahead of batters and throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes.
“I gave it my all for seven, it was frustrating how it ended up,” he added.
After Popkins’ pair of two-run home runs in the sixth and the eighth innings, the Aggies drove in four runs in the ninth to tie the game and the winning run in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the final inning, the Gauchos had men on first and third with one out, but senior center fielder Gunnar Terhune lined into a double play to end the game in front of a silent crowd of 334, which was still reeling from the Aggies late-inning comeback.
First baseman Trevor Whyte led the Gaucho offense with two hits and three RBI. Senior Matt Valaika, who shifted from his usual spot at shortstop to play second base this series, had three hits and an RBI in the game. Whyte and Valaika lead the Gauchos with cumulative batting averages of .320 and .296, respectively.
“It’s just funny,” Whyte said. “I mean, we came in here with hopes to at least stay in the race, or to [at least] do what we could to just finish out on a high note. It’s disappointing for the seniors.”
In Saturday’s game, Lyman had four hits and six RBI in the cleanup spot for the Aggies on the way to an 11-6 victory over the Gauchos. UCSB led 4-2 after four innings, but Davis tied the score in the top of the fifth.Still, Gaucho right-hander Greg Davis provided a solid Saturday outing, lasting six innings and allowing four runs. Junior right fielder Mark Haddow stole four bases in the game — one shy of the UCSB record.
On Friday, left-handed junior Mario Hollands struck out six in seven innings and earned one run. However, Gaucho errors by Whyte and senior left fielder Ryan Tregoning allowed the Aggies to score five additional runs in the 6-5 loss.
UCSB still has one more home game to play this season against Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday. Then, the team travels to Stockton to play Pacific in its last three-game weekend series of the season.
The season has been marked by inconsistencies for the Gauchos, who have put together separate winning streaks of five and four games but have also lost five in a row on two separate occasions. To finish the season, the team has lost two of its last 10.
Cal State Fullerton, whose 18-3 record was enough to clinch the Big West title over #25 UC Irvine, recently jumped ahead of #10 Los Angeles to #9 in the national rankings. The Titans serve as a reminder of how competitive the Big West was this season. Irvine is 14-7 in conference play.
“[We’ve just] got to move on from this,” Meaux said. “We’ve still got a weekend left. We’ve still got to bring it next weekend.”