SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A pair of UC Santa Barbara freshmen took control of Friday's Big West Conference opener to lead the Gauchos to a 5-3 victory over UC Riverside.
Andrew Vasquez continued his stellar rookie campaign by allowing just one earned run in 6.1 innings with six strikeouts and Greg Mahle scored two runs and pitched the final 1.1 innings for his second save of the season.
UCSB (13-11 overall, 1-0 in Big West) was actually outhit by the Highlanders (7-12, 0-1) but UCSB had big hits when it counted.
The Gauchos' offense was also buoyed by a pair of sacrifice flies from Marc Venning – to score the Gauchos' first run in the second – and Joe Winterburn's, which brought in a run in the fourth. Adding to the Gauchos' getting hits when it counted was Lance Roenicke's two-run home run in the seventh, which proved to be the difference.
Vasquez, who improved to 4-2 with a 1.26 ERA, was not sparkling in his 114-pitch outing, but took care of business when needed. He also had some help.
With two on in the first inning, the 6-foot-6 southpaw got cleanup hitter Vince Gonzalez to hit into a 6-4-3 double play and in the fifth, Winterburn picked off Jake Gallaway, who was caught leaning too far off first. Vasquez, after allowing a run in the sixth, induced a double play grounder from Eddie Young to end the inning.
Roenicke's second home run of the season – a two-run shot to left field – came with two outs in the seventh with a big assist to Brett Vertigan. The Gauchos' leadoff batter worked a 1-2 count into a walk, giving Roenicke the chance to bat. The senior leftfielder drilled the first pitch he saw – a hanging breaking ball from Dylan Stuart – for a 5-1 lead.
Stuart did not pitch poorly, allowing four earned runs in seven innings with four strikeouts, but Vasquez was just better.
Roenicke's shot was much-needed as David Andriese blasted a two-run homer to right field in the eighth inning off of Gaucho reliever Jared Wilson to bring the score to 5-3. After Wilson got a groundout head coach Andrew Checketts brought Greg Mahle over from first base to the pitching mound for a four-out save opportunity.
Mahle, who is second in the Big West in batting and RBI, allowed a double to Young before getting Clayton Prestridge to ground out. The Westminster, Calif. native struck out the first batter of the ninth before walking Drake Zarate to bring up the potential tying run. However Mahle got the next two batters to fly out to end the game.
UCSB plays UC Riverside on both Saturday and Sunday with both games starting at 1 p.m. Tickets are available by clicking here. The game can be heard live online by clicking here and in Santa Barbara on AM 1290.