In the final series of the 2013 regular season, the UCSB baseball team executed exactly what was needed to make their final playoff push. The Gauchos secured a sweep of UC Davis winning 10-5, 8-1 and 5-3. The sweep secured the Gauchos second place in the Big West Conference and on Monday morning, they were voted into the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
“We are excited about the playoffs,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “We were on pins and needles going into the selection show. It didn’t go quite how we expected. It felt like we were deserving and a team that could do some damage. It felt like we should get in there but with our RPI so low we were nervous.”
The sweep moved the Gauchos to 34-23 overall and into a tie for second place in the Big West Conference with Cal Poly at 17-10 in conference play. UC Davis fell to 19-37 and 5-22 in the Big West, finishing in last place this season.
In game one of the three game series on Thursday against the Aggies, the Gaucho offense exploded for 10 runs and 14 hits to defeat Davis 10-5. Sophomore second baseman Woody Woodward had himself a day as he led the charge, going 4-4 with four runs batted in and two runs scored.
Senior third baseman Marc Venning and freshman designated hitter Robby Nesovic each had a couple hits and had two RBI each in the 10 run outburst.
“We’ve been hitting the ball real well the last couple of weeks in my opinion,” Venning said. “We had a lot of runners on base but we didn’t always score them but we just kept pounding away and eventually we ended up scoring some runs. We executed a lot better in the first two games which led to us putting up a bunch of runs.”
Sophomore starting pitcher Austin Pettibone completed his final start of the regular season by throwing eight innings. He earned his ninth win as he allowed four runs and struck out four. Pettibone ends the regular season as the Big West Conference leader in innings pitched.
Game two of the weekend series was another trouncing of the Aggies as the Gaucho offense continued to fire on all cylinders. UCSB scored eight runs on 15 hits in the 8-1 victory.
Joey Epperson was the spark plug from the leadoff position, reaching base five times as he went 4-4 on the day with a hit by pitch, two doubles, an RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases.
Junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon and sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa took advantage of the teams on base ability as they each drove in two runs.
Woodward left game two with a knee injury and sat out of Saturday’s finale but should be able to play going forward.
On Saturday, Davis slowed down the Gaucho high flying offense but was unable to stop them from completing the three-game sweep. Sophomore Andrew Vasquez pitched just two and two thirds innings before being relieved by sophomore pitcher Greg Mahle, who earned his seventh win of the year with his five and a third shutout innings.
Filling in for the injured Woodward, freshman second baseman Ryan Clark made sure there was nothing lost as he drove in three runs on Saturday, a career-high.
After five innings, the two teams were tied 3-3, but Kuresa put the Gauchos on top with a solo home run, his fifth of the year, to give his team a lead that would be held by freshman pitcher Dylan Hecht‘s eighth and final save of the regular season.
This will be the Gauchos’ first postseason since 2001. The postseason will begin on Friday, May 31, as UCSB will take on Texas A&M in the Corvallis Regional, hosted by Oregon State.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of May 28, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of The Daily Nexus.