In its last three home games of the season, the UCSB baseball team defeated Cal State Northridge in its first two games of the series before losing 4-1 in yesterday’s final contest of the year at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
“We wanted to get that sweep. We didn’t come out to play today,” junior shortstop Peter Maris said. “We won the series, which is good, but we needed that sweep.”
UCSB drops to 9-12 in the Big West and 29-15-1 overall, while CSUN improves its record to 6-12 in the league and 18-32 overall. With only seven games left in the season, the Gauchos will most likely have to sweep the remainder of their schedule to make up lost ground and qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Three errors in the first inning of yesterday’s game resulted in three runs by the Matadors and erased any chance of the Gauchos earning a sweep. Freshman starting pitcher Shane Bieber managed to escape the inning, but the damage was done for UCSB. The Gauchos manufactured only one run in the sixth inning on a RBI hit by sophomore designated hitter/pitcher Greg Mahle.
“We weren’t ready to go defensively and then we couldn’t adjust offensively later,” Head Coach Andrew Checketts said. “They weren’t flat. They had energy, but their concentration level probably wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Junior pitcher Austin Pettibone’s complete-game shutout on Saturday clinched the series for the Gauchos as the team won 6-0. The right-hander delivered his best outing of the season, facing only 30 batters and throwing 85 pitches to pick up the win and improve to 3-1 on the year.
“He had everything working today. He hit all his spots and when he does that he’s pretty unhittable,” senior left fielder Joey Epperson said. “The fastball was coming out of his hand well. He did a good job of being deceptive at times and throwing pitches where he wants in the strike zone.”
UCSB led 2-0 in the eighth inning before adding four big insurance runs to extend its lead. After junior right fielder Cameron Newell scored from second base on a throwing error, the top half of Santa Barbara’s lineup capitalized on senior relief pitcher Michael Coates’s poor outing on the mound.
Coates allowed two runs on a RBI triple by Maris and a double by Epperson, which drove Coates out of the game. Sophomore third baseman Robby Nesovic capped off the inning with a single to bring Epperson home.
Santa Barbara previously scored two runs in the fourth inning on a two-run homerun by Epperson. With a runner on second base, Epperson smashed the ball opposite-field for his fourth homer on the year and first since March 16.
“In that situation, mainly I was just trying put the barrel to the baseball and find a way to get that run in,” Epperson said. “And I wound up taking a good swing on the ball and it left the yard. With Pettibone pitching that was really all we needed.”
In the first game of the series on Friday, the Gauchos’ four runs in the third inning was just enough, with the final score ending 4-3 in favor of UCSB. Newell singled to get the third inning started for the Gauchos and scored two outs later on a hit to the left side by Maris.
CSUN’s senior pitcher Brycen Rutherford followed the Maris single by loading the bases, setting the stage for a two-run RBI hit from Nesovic. Freshman center fielder Andrew Calica singled one more time in the inning to give UCSB a 4-0 advantage.
While Santa Barbara’s lineup gave UCSB the lead, Mahle’s versatility in the batter’s box and on the mound proved to be the difference in the game. After sophomore starting pitcher Justin Jacome gave up three runs in the sixth inning, Mahle came in relief with the bases loaded and pitched out of the jam to maintain UCSB’s lead.
Mahle filled the stat sheet on the day. From the plate, Mahle went 2-3 with a walk and a run scored. His two innings pitched in relief secured the lead before sophomore closer Dillon Tate came on in the eighth and ninth inning to close the door on the Matadors.
UCSB is back in action Tuesday against Pepperdine. The game is of critical importance in terms of UCSB qualifying for the NCAA tournament, given that the Waves are the last opponent the Gauchos will face with an RPI of above 40. Teams with an RPI above 40 have a considerable shot at earning an at-large bid, and as of now, Santa Barbara has an RPI of 52.
First pitch tomorrow is set for 3 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of May 12, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of the Daily Nexus.