May 5, 2012

Several Sparkling Defensive Plays Not Enough for Gauchos

IRVINE, Calif. – Runs were again at a premium on Saturday afternoon at Anteater Stadium as UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine locked into a second straight pitcher's duel.

Unfortunately, for the Gauchos, the song remained the same.

UCSB fell 2-0 – the same score as Friday night's defeat – as Santa Barbara High grad Crosby Slaught tossed seven shutout innings and allowed just four hits to defeat his hometown team.

Freshman left-hander Andrew Vasquez put together another sparkling outing in which he allowed just one run on six hits in 6.1 innings, but he was bested by Slaught. Vasquez actually lowered his ERA to 1.69 in the losing effort as he fell to 6-4 on the season and UCSB drops to 23-21 overall and 9-8 in the Big West.

Irvine, meanwhile, won its sixth straight in improving to 26-17 overall and 10-7 in the conference and kept a lengthy streak against the Gauchos alive. UC Irvine has not lost a series to the Gauchos since the 1992 season (Irvine dropped baseball from 1993-2001).

Brett Vertigan had two of the Gauchos' four hits and tried to spark a fledgling offense that couldn't record a big hit for the second consecutive game. Santa Barbara had runners in scoring position in four innings, including runners on second and third in the first inning with one out.

But, Slaught pitched his way out of trouble and at one point retired 15 hitters in a row.

Vasquez, on the other hand, needing some sterling defensive plays to help him throw up some zeroes on the scoreboard.

Joey Wallace made a phenomenal diving catch to end the first inning with two runners on as the senior right fielder did a full extension near the foul line to take a hit away from Connor Spencer. Then in the second Wallace struck again as he doubled up Jeff Stephens at home, who was trying to tag on Scott Gottschling's fly ball.

Double play ground balls got Vasquez out of the third and fifth innings, with another defensive highlight coming on the second one. Tommy Reyes hit a slow chopper to shortstop Steven Moon with runners on the corners. Moon flipped to Brandon Trinkwon at second for the first out and Trinkwon made a strong throw to first where Marc Venning completely laid out down the line - all the while keeping his foot on the first base bag - for the double play.

Irvine scored the difference-maker in the sixth when Vasquez hit Jordan Fox with a pitch before Jerry McClanahan walked. A sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third and Stephens' bloop single to left field brought in a run.

Stephens was already riding high in that inning as he made a terrific diving catch of Greg Mahle's blooper in left field with two outs and the bases loaded.

UCSB finishes off the series with a 2 p.m. first pitch on Sunday. The game can be heard live online by clicking here, with the pregame show starting a half-hour prior to first pitch. Sunday's game will be shown on ESPNU.