A five-run first inning proceeded by a two-run second frame by third-seeded Fresno State proved to doom the second-seeded UCSB baseball team who was unable to overcome the deficit, eventually falling 9-2.
With the loss, the Gauchos, now 45-10 overall, fall into the elimination bracket and will face fourth-seeded Sacramento State. UCSB’s road to a Super Regional also becomes vastly harder as it needs to win the next four games to advance.
Fresno State, now 39-14-1 overall, will take on top-seeded Stanford who thrashed Sac State on Friday, 11-0.
Normal Friday starter Ben Brecht took the mound for Santa Barbara, but the usually sharp southpaw was off his game.
Brecht began the evening giving up four straight singles. After working the first out, an error by third baseman Marcus Castonon put one more run on the board for Fresno State. Brecht than worked another out.
Up 2-0 with two outs and the bases loaded, if Brecht could have survived the inning it could have been a different game. Instead, first baseman Zach Presno drove in two runs with a single to left field. The ‘Dogs would add one more run to have a commanding 5-0 lead through one.
Things did not get much better in the second as back-to-back doubles from junior catcher Bins Carter and redshirt sophomore JT Arruda would add two runs giving Fresno State a 7-0 lead.
Following Arruda’s RBI double, Brecht was relieved. He ended the day allowing eight hits and seven earned runs in just 1.1 innings of work. Junior Shea Barry came in and got the final two outs to stop the bleeding.
While Brecht struggled on the Gaucho side, Fresno State’s ace pitcher Ryan Jensen tossed a great game. The junior, who is projected to be drafted within the first two rounds in next weeks’ Major League Draft, was working a no-hitter through 5.2 innings.
Jensen received another insurance run in the fourth which put Fresno State on top, 4-0.
In the bottom of the seventh, UCSB was finally able to tack a run off of Jensen. The Gauchos led off the inning with a single, followed by a double to put both runners in scoring position.
A sacrifice fly from junior center fielder Tommy Jew brought across a run to make it 8-1. Moments later, an RBI single from freshman infielder Christian Kirtley made the score 8-2.
Fresno State countered with one run in the top of the eighth to still hold a very secure 9-2 lead.
Jensen would continue pitching into the eighth inning before being relieved with two outs in the frame. He finished allowing just two earned runs and four hits with eight strikeouts.
Redshirt junior right-hander Ryan Sullivan threw the final 1.1 innings allowing one hit and one walk and securing Fresno State’s big opening win.
Overall, Fresno State was outstanding on both sides of the field. The Bulldogs tallied 14 hits, the most the Gauchos have given up since Mar. 30 at Cal State Fullerton. On the flip side, UCSB mustered only five hits and committed three errors, the most committed in a single game since April 6 against Stephen F. Austin.
All in all, Friday’s result — and game in general — was disappointing for the Gauchos. This is a team that came in with just nine losses, and all none of those was by more than five runs.
That being said, the beauty of double elimination is UCSB is still alive. Taking on Sac State should be easier for Santa Barbara.
As a team, the Hornets bat just .235 and with Jack Dashwood taking the mound for the Gauchos the possibility of falling behind so early is not as high.
UCSB takes on Sac State at 1 p.mn. on Saturday at Klein Filed in Sunken Diamond. The loser of the game is eliminated from the postseason.