Gauchos Topped by No. 19 UC Irvine in Series Opener

Brandon Trinkwon (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Left fielder Joey Epperson went 4-5, finishing just a home run short of the cycle, and Brandon Trinkwon and Ryan Clark each turned in multiple-RBI days, but it wasn't enough to overcome the offense of No. 19 UC Irvine, which claimed a 14-9 victory on Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

UCSB fell to 23-20, 8-8 with the loss, while UC Irvine jumped to 29-13, 11-5 with the win. With 16 hits, it was the fifth straight game that the Gauchos recorded double-digit hits, their longest such streak of the season. Unfortunately, it was also the second consecutive time that UCSB has fallen despite outhitting the opponent.

The Gauchos held a fairly comfortable lead through four innings, going up 6-2 over the Anteaters after a three-run fourth inning.

Center fielder Cameron Newell, the reigning Big West Field Player of the Week, sparked that rally with a one-out single up the middle to stretch his hitting streak to nine games. Catcher Jackson Morrow followed that up with a bad-hop single, then stole second to give the Gauchos two runners in scoring position. Third baseman Ryan Clark cashed in both runners by lacing a single through the right side, then came around himself on an Epperson double.

Epperson had previously manufactured a run in the third, when he led off the frame with a triple into the right field corner. Shortstop Brandon Trinkwon plated him with an RBI groundout.

After allowing two runs in the first inning, UCSB was able to immediately counter with a pair of runs. Trinkwon spurred the offense that inning with an RBI triple, scoring on a Woody Woodward single.

Despite being held off the board for three of the first four innings, the Anteaters bats could not be kept at bay for the entire game.

Third baseman Tyler Sparks hinted at UCI's offensive potential with a home run in one of the more bizarre first innings ever played at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. UCSB starter Austin Pettibone threw a grand total of eight pitches in the inning, yet managed to sneak in three outs, three hits, two runs, and a Gauchos fielding error. All batters in the inning saw either one or two pitches, and Pettibone was able to escape further damage by picking off the first two runners to reach base in the inning.

The Anteaters then exploded for 11 runs over the sixth and seventh innings. In the sixth, the first five UCI batters were able to reach. After a botched sacrifice, three consecutive Anteaters doubles brought in four additional runs and pushed the score to 10-6.

Similarly, UCI was able to get the first five batters of the seventh inning on, before a Chris Rabago double cleared the bases to make it 14-6.

Pettibone got roughed up on Friday, giving up a season-high nine runs over 5 1/3 innings. It was just the third time this season that he gave up more than two earned runs, falling to 6-3 with the loss.

However, the Gauchos were also able to get to UCI starter Andrew Thurman – a potential early-round draft pick – to the tune of six runs and nine hits over four innings. UC Irvine's Evan Brock picked up the win after throwing a scoreless fifth inning.

Senior righty Jared Wilson had a solid relief effort, allowing just one run over three innings while striking out five.

For the Gauchos, Epperson extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his career-best four hit performance. Junior catcher Joe Winterburn launched his second pinch-hit home run of the season with a ninth inning solo shot.

The Gauchos and Anteaters will get right back at it tomorrow afternoon for the middle contest of their three-game Big West Conference series. First pitch is set for 2:00 p.m.