Gauchos Outlast San Jose State in Walk-Off Thriller

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. The Gauchos rapped out 10 hits on Friday afternoon in the opening set of a three game series with the visiting San Jose State Spartans, but not one was needed to break a 4-4 deadlock in the ninth inning. The Spartan bullpen struggled finding the strike zone in the bottom of the 9th inning, hitting two batters and walking in another pair to force in a run, giving UCSB a 5-4 walk-off win at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, their first since Andrew Checketts's first win as head coach on Feb. 18, 2012.

After all the dramatics, the Gauchos improved to 5-4, while the struggling Spartans fell to 2-7.

San Jose State's Kyle Hassna started off the ninth inning on the mound after escaping a bases loaded jam in the eighth by getting Steven Fisher to hit into a double play. Hassna's troubles continued immediately in the ninth however, as a 1-2 pitch struck UCSB leadoff hitter Cameron Newell. A perfect Woody Woodward sacrifice bunt down the first base line put the speedy Newell in scoring position. San Jose State wanted no piece of UCSB shortstop Brandon Trinkwon, as he was intentionally walked after refraining from swinging at two pitches off the plate to start the at bat.

After walking Trinkwon, the right-handed Hassna made way for southpaw Drew Bradshaw, who was brought in to face UCSB's left-handed first baseman Tyler Kuresa. Bradshaw got ahead of Kuresa, but came too far inside with his 1-2 pitch and plunked Kuresa to load the bases for Greg Mahle. Bradshaw welcomed Mahle with three straight balls to start the at bat. He was able to find the strike zone on his 3-0 pitch, but the follow up was well off the plate to give the Gauchos the win.

Mahle was also the recipient of the win, pitching a scoreless top of the ninth while striking out San Jose State's Michael Gerlach looking with a runner on second to end the inning. It was Mahle's first win of the season and his third appearance in the last week.

"We really gutted out this win," said Checketts after the game. "Besides that one inning, we played solid fundamental baseball throughout, and we got another outstanding start from Austin Pettibone."

At the outset of the game, it looked as if late inning heroics would not be necessary, as the Gauchos jumped on San Jose State starter Johnny Melero for three runs over the first two innings.

Sophomore second baseman Woody Woodward, who had two hits to give him multiple hits in five of his last six appearances, kicked off the Gaucho offense with a single that just scooted under the glove of Spartan third baseman Richie Johnson. After another walk for Trinkwon — he had three on the day — Kuresa hit a laser back up the middle and Woodward got into home just before the throw from center fielder Andre Mercurio, giving the Gauchos a 1-0 lead.

Sophomore third baseman Peter Maris started off the bottom of the second with a double to the right field corner. Junior catcher Jackson Morrow followed that up with a bunt placed so well that he was able to beat out the play for a single. After an RBI groundout from freshman right fielder Andrew Calica, Newell singled to center to cash in Morrow, pushing the lead to 3-0.

Meanwhile, UCSB starter Austin Pettibone kept the San Jose State bats in check through the first four innings, scattering four hits and stranding five runners while allowing no runs. However, the Yorba Linda, Calif. native started off the fifth inning by hitting Johnson, the No. 9 hitter. The speedy Mercurio followed that up with a ball hit to shortstop just slowly enough to stay out of the double play, which would turn out to be pivotal. 

Gerlach would single to plate Johnson, and then a UCSB error put runners on first and second with one out. After striking out cleanup hitter Nick Schulz, Pettibone would surrender singles in the next two at bats and would only escape the inning after Morrow gunned down Spartan catcher Jon Nelson attempting to take second on his base hit, but not before giving his team a 4-3 lead.

Despite the adventures in the fifth, Pettibone had yet another spectacular outing for the Gauchos, throwing 118 pitches over eight innings, surrendering just one earned run and striking out four. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in each of his three starts this season, and Friday's no decision was the first time he has not won a start this year.

The Gauchos would end up tying the game in the seventh after Trinkwon hit a sacrifice fly to score Woodward, who had tripled with one out earlier in the inning. The end of the seventh ended the day for Melero, who gave up four earned runs over seven innings pitched, striking out two and walking two.

Hassna would end up getting tagged with the loss, pushing his record to 1-3 on the year.

Jackson Morrow had a banner day with the bat, rewarding Andrew Checketts' faith by going 3-3 with a double and a stolen base after being moved up in the lineup.

The Gauchos and Spartans will be back in action tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Tickets for that game, and all games this season, can be found here.

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