DAVIS, Calif. – A sixth inning Tyler Kuresa home run powered the Gauchos to a 5-3 win over the UC Davis Aggies in the last game of the regular season for both teams, allowing UCSB to finish the season in second place in the Big West Conference.
The Gauchos, who had clinched their sixth consecutive series with their win yesterday, claimed their first conference sweep of the season. UCSB finishes at a season-best 11 games over .500 with a 34-23 record. It is the program's most wins since 2008, when they had 35.
At 17-10 in Big West play, it is the highest the Gauchos have finished since 2001, when they also placed second. Though they are tied with Cal Poly, they officially place second by virtue of defeating the Mustangs in a Big West series from Apr. 5-7. The Gauchos' 17 conference wins are their most since 2000, when they went 18-12.
The Aggies finished the year with a 19-37, 5-22 record.
Kuresa's one-out solo home run in the sixth inning broke a 3-3 deadlock after UCSB and UC Davis had engaged in a see-saw battle in innings two through five.
A Luke Swenson single and Marc Venning double started off the Gauchos second, and then Ryan Clark knocked in the first run of the game on what would have been an RBI groundout if not for a UC Davis error. UCSB was able to plate another run in the third on a Marc Venning sacrifice fly.
However, the Aggies were able to answer right back each time. A Spencer Brann RBI single in the second knotted the score at 1-1, and then UC Davis was able to take the lead in the third on an Austin Logan RBI single after Paul Politi had evened the score with an RBI groundout.
A fifth inning run-scoring base hit through the left side from Ryan Clark evened the score yet again at 3-3, setting up Kuresa's eventual game-winning dinger.
After a shaky start, the UCSB pitching staff locked down the UC Davis offense to the tune of no runs and just five hits over the final 6 1/3 innings of the game.
Sophomore lefty Greg Mahle was the star in relief for the Gauchos, as he saved his best performance of the season for last. Spelling starter Andrew Vasquez, Mahle tossed 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief while allowing just three hits and striking out six. His six punchouts matched a season-high, while it was his longest outing of the season, innings wise.
Mahle retired seven straight batters over innings five through seven, including striking out the side in the sixth. He would end up picking up his seventh win of the season – the second highest win total on the team – to finish the year with a 7-4 record.
Clark added another RBI in the ninth inning with a run-scoring groundout that gave the Gauchos an insurance run and a 5-3 lead.
Freshman closer Dylan Hecht came on to finish the game in the ninth, and was greeted with a ground ball that deflected off his leg for a single. The right-hander stayed in the game after consulting with head coach Andrew Checketts and trainer Mike Hoang, and rewarded their faith by inducing a groundout followed by a game-ending 4-6-3 double play ball. It was the eighth save of the season for Hecht.
UC Davis reliever Evan Wolf – who was originally scheduled to start the game – picked up the loss on the day after allowing a pair of runs in four innings of work.
The Gauchos now await their fate, as decided by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, as far as a possible at-large bid in the 64-team NCAA Tournament that kicks off next weekend. The field will be announced by the committee on Monday morning. The selection show can be watched live on ESPNU at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time.