The UC Santa Barbara baseball team put on a dominant display this weekend.
A series sweep over the University of Illinois at Chicago opened up with the Gauchos earning their fourth-straight win as well as their third shutout of the young season, punctuated by a Nick Vogt 10th-inning walk-off RBI single late Friday night.
UCSB sent sophomore lefty Rodney Boone to the mound on Friday, who was set to battle it out with UIC’s Jacob Key. Key stifled the Gauchos all the way until junior Gianni Bloom’s sac-fly would score junior Jason Willow in the seventh inning.
Sophomore Steele Ledford, whose single to the right side had moved Willow over to third, would then score on an error, giving the Gauchos a 2-1 lead.
Chicagoan Joshua Figueroa then hit a shot off Boone in the eighth to tie it back up at 2.
Boone would finish the night with 7.1 innings tossed, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk and a career-high 12 strikeouts.
Come the tenth inning, Head Coach Andrew Checketts would look to freshman Vogt with 2 outs against the Gauchos to drive home sophomore Christian Kirtley.
It was a hit-and-run with Willow just prior, though, and Vogt was tasked with putting the ball in play just after junior Marcos Castanon singled to give the Gauchos runners at first and second base. There was 1 out.
Willow grounded out to short, but the execution of the hit-and-run was nothing short of spectacular, and UCSB now had runners on first and third for the young man out of Woodland, California.
Vogt lined a single up the middle for a walk-off win over the Flames.
What Vogt really did, however, was open the can of worms that was the UCSB offense. The Gauchos won both of the next two games with a combined score of 25-1, completing the sweep over UIC.
The Gaucho pitching staff, despite how remarkably committed and motivated the lineup is, has just been a bit more consistent.
UCSB’s offense has a low/high record of 1 and 17 runs, respectively, while their pitching staff has surrendered a low/high of 0 and 7. UCSB has given up two runs or less in eight of their eleven games thus far.
And for that reason, it can be quite interesting to analyze what exactly it is that sparks the hitting bug. Where does it come from? Why is it contagious? The Gauchos did something pretty special in game three, but more on that later.
On Saturday, the Flames tasked Bobby Nicholson with leading the charge as they sought redemption for Friday night’s fiasco.
Gaucho junior Zach Torra continued his torrid form with 12 punchouts and a shutout, making for 25 strikeouts in his last two starts.
It was UCSB’s third shutout of the season and they can credit their well-roundedness for that.
The Gauchos scored 10 runs off a .250 clip with 10 RBIs and an almost even K/BB ratio at 6/8. Sophomore first-baseman Kyle Johnson and Castanon both had multihit performances, including a 5-RBI day for Castanon.
UCSB topped UIC 10-0 to take the series with a game to play.
Sunday was more of the same, as the Gauchos steamrolled the Flames to a 15-1 pounding that saw UCSB bat around in the seventh inning. They rolled out 15 batters en route to a victory that sent a message: They’re here, and they’re here to play.
The Gauchos have stomped their opponents and made them look silly in the box, held out for the one-run games, hit a walk-off, have won in extras and so much more. They’ve played small ball, and they’ve looked like a modern MLB team, such as in this final game.
Kirtley and Vogt continued their fine weekends and each accounted for 2 more Gaucho RBIs, with shortstop McClain O’Connor contributing the final knock.
UCSB will have a short rest as top-10 UCLA comes to town on Tuesday night.