UCSB baseball struck back yesterday afternoon, defeating the University of San Diego 12-4. The Gauchos had previously lost to USD last week, but blew out the Toreros on the cool and wet afternoon.
Yesterday was the return of sophomore pitcher Andrew Vasquez, whose last appearance came a month ago on March 24. Vasquez threw three innings, allowing two earned runs on just one hit, but allowed six walks.
“I think this was a huge step in the right direction for him,” junior catcher Jackson Morrow said. “Obviously from the results it may have not been exactly what he wanted, but we need him going down the road. He is such a talented pitcher and this was awesome to see.”
The Gauchos advance to 21-18 on the season with the win, picked up by junior pitcher Cameron Cuneo who worked four innings of relief. San Diego drops to 25-16 with the loss.
Santa Barbara got on the board first in the bottom of the second, putting a three spot on San Diego. Sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa reached base on an error and would come around to score on a single by freshman third baseman Devon Gradford. After Gradford stolen base, Morrow would single in two more runs to start his 3-4 and four-RBI day.
“They have some good arms and some pretty good guys on the mound, so it was really nice to put some good swings on balls,” Morrow said. “The RBIs just come from guys being in scoring position while I’m at bat, so thanks to those guys for helping me out a lot.”
San Diego responded with two runs in the top of the third and another in the fifth on junior third baseman Kris Bryant’s home run, his 21st on the season. However, UCSB would score an incredible six runs in the seventh.
Sophomore center fielder Cameron Newell got the big inning started with a two-run single. Newell then stole second, but a throwing error brought in a run. Another base hit by freshman third baseman Ryan Clark would plate another before a two-run home run by Morrow would top off the inning and his impressive day at the plate.
“Today I think we played really good team baseball and we have been playing better the last couple weeks,” Morrow said. “We pulled a game out at Fullerton and ever since then we’ve got on a little roll. Now we need to go into [Riverside] and play our brand of baseball.”
Next up for the Gauchos will be a trip to Riverside for a three-game series this weekend. The Highlanders are mired in a five-game losing streak and most recently lost to San Diego on Tuesday.
“It’s a big weekend for us,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “Personally I’m excited; it’s my first time back as a coach since I coached there. I’ve been back to watch games and see friends, but I haven’t been in the other dugout to coach so I’m excited to see how our guys respond.”
The five-game slide has included some incredibly one-sided defeats as well. On April 16 against UNLV, Riverside lost 11-24 to start the losing streak. Then on April 21 against UC Davis, they fell 8-19. The Highlander offense has been able to score enough runs to keep them in a typical game, but the pitching staff has been roughed up heavy as of late.
Yet, the 17-19 Highlanders are in a tie with UCSB in the Big West standings at 6-6. As a result, this weekend will be a test for both teams as they both will have an opportunity to separate themselves in a tightly packed Big West Conference.
The three-game series begins Friday evening at 6 p.m. at the Riverside Sports Complex. Saturday night’s game will also be a night game at 6 p.m. followed by Sunday’s series finale set for a 1 p.m. afternoon start time.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of April 25th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of the Daily Nexus.