In a crucial rubber game against the Loyola Marymount Lions, baserunning miscues and a few unlucky bounces spelled doom for the Gauchos, who lost Sunday afternoon's game by a score of 7-5 despite outhitting their opponents for the third straight game.
The Gauchos, who now sport a 6-5 record, were able to make a ninth-inning comeback after trailing 5-4 in the final frame, but ran out of magic after surrendering a pair of runs in the tenth. Loyola Marymount improved to 4-7, winning their second series of the season overall.
UCSB opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning, when right fielder Joey Wallace stroked a single to right field that plated designated hitter Bryce Tafelski, who had reached on a leadoff walk.
That lead would be both short-lived and their last of the game however, as LMU came right back to score two runs in the top of the third. After allowing a leadoff single in the frame, UCSB starter Matt Vedo was able to record outs on the next two batters. A walk to left fielder Matt Lowenstein was followed by a bases-clearing double from cleanup hitter Scott Harkin, putting the Lions up 2-1.
Vedo would give up a walk and a hit-by-pitch to the first two batters of the sixth inning before making way for reliever Zak Edgington, finishing the day with five innings pitched, three earned runs allowed, and six strikeouts. Despite allowing just three hits, he gave up four walks to the Lions.
Edgington would strike out the first two batters he faced in relief. However, a two-out single by pinch hitter Shon Roe was followed by a grounder that skipped under UCSB shortstop Brandon Trinkwon's glove, cashing in both of the runners for which Vedo was responsible.
Trailing 5-4 and down to their last out, UCSB was able to create some last-minute offense that was started off by a Lance Roenicke hit-by-pitch. Brandon Trinkwon was able to work an eight-pitch walk to advance Roenicke to second. Greg Mahle, who had earlier entered the game in relief of Tafelski, lined a a one-hop single to right field. On the ensuing play at the plate, Roenicke was able to beat the throw from LMU right fielder Scott Harkin, knotting the score at 5 at the end of regulation.
Any UCSB elation about a comeback was quickly snuffed out at the outset of extra frames. The first two LMU batters reached via bunt singles, the second of which tight-roped the first base foul line before settling fair just a few feet from the bag. Another bunt, this one a sacrifice, would push the runners to second and third with just one out. LMU catcher Colton Plaia, who had batted 1-10 in the series to that point, would knock in both runners with an accurately placed ground ball single through the drawn-in infield.
The Gauchos would go down in order in the bottom of the tenth to cement the victory for Loyola Marymount.
Senior Jeremy Peterson was the hard-luck loser, having given up those bunt hits and the decisive single in the tenth inning. In his 2.2 innings of work, Peterson struck out two batters and was instrumental in stopping an LMU rally in the top of the seventh.
LMU starter John Lally lasted just four innings, but walked off with a respectable line of six hits and two earned runs allowed with four strikeouts.
Bret Dahlson, who came in to start the eighth inning, earned the win, pitching two innings and allowing a single run while striking out two. Ryan Hawthorne earned his first save of the year by shutting down the Gauchos in the tenth.
UCSB's loss spoiled several strong performances with the bat. Center fielder Brett Vertigan went 3-5, finishing 9-13 for the three-game series. Right fielder Joey Wallace had four base hits, raising his overall batting average to .357. Bryce Tafelski and Greg Mahle both went 2-2 in the DH slot.
Several miscues on the basepaths brought about premature ends to UCSB rallies. The Gauchos were caught stealing or picked off in each inning between the fourth and seventh, halting any momentum created by the team's 12 hits.
Looking forward, UCSB will host CSU Bakersfield on Tuesday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The Gauchos will then hit the road, as they are set to play a three-game weekend series at the University of Nevada Reno from Mar. 9-11.
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