Gauchos End Up On Wrong End of Wild Ninth Inning in 4-3 Loss

Austin Pettibone (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Austin Pettibone (Photo by Tony Mastres)

FULLERTON, Calif. – The Gauchos scored a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to take a 3-2 lead over No. 4 Cal State Fullerton on Friday night, but were unable to close it out as the Titans came out the victors in a wild 4-3 outcome.

Trailing 2-1 heading into the final frame, first baseman Tyler Kuresa sparked a UCSB rally with a one-out single. The next batter, left fielder Luke Swenson, ripped a ball down the right field line for a run-scoring triple. Catcher Jackson Morrow followed that up with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt that plated Swenson for the go-ahead run.

With the two-run ninth, the Gauchos handed Michael Lorenzen his first blown save of the season, denying the Titans closer the opportunity to record his 13th save, which would have led all NCAA pitchers.

UCSB's lead was short lived however, as the Titans immediately stormed back in the bottom of the ninth. Austin Diemer led off the inning with a bunt single, then back-to-back walks loaded the bases for Cal State Fullerton with no outs. After a wild pitch brought in the tying run, Richy Pedroza skied a ball to center field that was sufficiently deep enough to bring in Diemer for the walk-off win.

Cal State Fullerton's ninth inning exploits extended their winning streak to nine games, leaving their record at 30-4 with a perfect 7-0 mark in Big West Conference play. UCSB fell to 17-15, 3-4 with the loss.

The Gauchos actually led for the majority of the game, as they were able to put a run across in the first inning. Center fielder Cameron Newell opened the game with a single to extend his hitting streak to eleven games, the longest streak by a UCSB batter this season. After another single from shortstop Brandon Trinkwon, Newell came around on an RBI groundout from Robby Nesovic.

The 1-0 score would hold up until the Titans were able to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh off UCSB starter Austin Pettibone. Pettibone would end the night with a no decision, throwing 7 2/3 innings and allowing just the two runs on 11 hits while striking out three and walking one.

Freshman righty Dylan Hecht picked up his second loss of the season, walking the only two batters he faced.

Despite the blown save, Lorenzen picked up the win, his first of the year. Titans starter Thomas Eshelman threw another gem, allowing one run and five hits over eight innings pitched with seven punchouts.

The Gauchos and Titans will do battle again tomorrow night, with first pitch set for 6:00 p.m. Justin Jacome will take the ball for UCSB.