SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A head-scratching decision will be what UC Riverside considers on its bus ride back from Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
For the UC Santa Barbara baseball team, they're happy to take it.
The Gauchos loaded the bases in a tie game in the eighth inning and rather than remove left-hander Ben Doucette and bring in right-hander Mitch Patito, UCR head coach Doug Smith elected to leave the southpaw in to face Joey Wallace.
Doucette, who had walked the previous two batters to load the bases, hit Wallace with a pitch to bring in the go-ahead run and ultimately give the Gauchos a 3-1 victory on Sunday. The win gave UCSB its first series victory over UCR since 2008 as the Gauchos and Highlanders had split the first two games of the Big West series.
UCSB improves to 14-12 overall and 2-1 in conference play. UCR falls to 8-13, 1-2.
It was almost too bad that either team had to lose Sunday's game in which Gaucho starter Zak Edgington and Highlanders' starter Trevor Frank matched each other nearly pitch for pitch. Edgington allowed one run through 7.1 innings of work while Frank was charged with two runs (one earned) in his 7.1 innings.
A wise pitching substitution from the Gauchos' dugout kept the game tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth. After Edgington got the first out of the inning on a ground ball, Andrew Checketts brought in righty Jared Wilson, who sandwiched a walk between two base hits. Checketts called upon Jeremy Peterson (1-3) with the bases loaded and one out.
Peterson, in his first action of the week, got Jake Gallaway to roll a ball to shortstop Brandon Trinkwon, who touched second and completed the double play with a throw to first.
Brett Vertigan led off the bottom of the eighth with a double against Frank and Bryce Tafelski's sacrifice bunt pushed Vertigan to third. In came Doucette who walked Trinkwon and Greg Mahle, loading the bases. After a visit to the mound, Doucette remained in the game to face Wallace and plunked him with the second pitch of the at-bat.
Patito then came in and Luke Swenson gave the Gauchos some breathing room with a sac fly, although the insurance run was unnecessary.
Mahle pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his second save of the series to make the Gauchos victorious for the fourth time in five games.
UCSB got on the board first with a pair of bloopers in the second inning. Mahle reached on a single, which should have been an out, but shortstop Eddie Young lost the ball in the sun. Then with two outs, Peter Maris hit a pop-up that Young lost in the sun again and third baseman Cody Hough tried to recover in time, but it banged off his glove for a run-scoring error.
Edgington danced in and out of trouble, but was otherwise very solid in his outing. Riverside had runners on in every inning Edgington worked, but the lefty only allowed one run on a close play at the plate. Gallway scored on a double down the left field line by Nick Vilter in the fourth, just beating the throw from Trinkwon on the cutouff.
But it was Trinkwon who helped save a run an inning before as Wallace's throw on Vince Gonzalez's double went over the cutoff man. Trinkwon, however, backed the play up and fielded the ball on the grass in between first base and the pitcher's mound and fired a shot home where Tafelski adeptly blocked the plate and took the brunt of a hit from Young.
The Gauchos continue their nine-game homestand with a Throwback Tuesday game vs. CSU Bakersfield and then host Cal State Northridge from Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are availableby clicking here. All four games can be heard live online by clicking here with the pregame show starting a half-hour before first pitch.