CORVALLIS, Ore. – When the 2013 NCAA Baseball Tournament brackets were unveiled on Monday, UC Santa Barbara had to wait until the last match-up was announced to hear its name, but when its game against Texas A&M did appear on the TV screen the Gauchos went into wild celebration in their clubhouse.
On Friday, they had to wait nine innings before they could continue to celebrate as they staved off an Aggie rally in the bottom of the ninth to post a 6-4 win over the Aggies at the Corvallis Regional in Oregon. It was the program's first NCAA Regional win since 2001 and its first win to open a Regional since 1986.
Sophomore Austin Pettibone, steady all throughout the regular season, was outstanding in his 7.2 innings, allowing seven hits, one earned run and no walks to improve to 10-3 overall. He got the leadoff hitter seven times in his eight opportunities and threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 30 batters. Freshman Dylan Hecht struck out two to earn his ninth save in a gutsy ninth inning performance.
"That is what (Coach Andrew) Checketts preaches is first pitch strikes," Pettibone said. "I was doing a good job in the beginning and when I wasn't, when I was behind in the count, they got some quality hits off me. But I got a lot of ground balls and the defense did a great job behind me."
"It was a great start by Austin Pettibone," said second-year head coach Andrew Checketts. "I think he was a little disappointed about being pulled out of the game and he made a couple of comments under his breath, good natured comments because we have that kind of relationships. He was almost right that we should have left him in there to close it, but Dylan has been our closer all year."
Pettibone outdueled Texas A&M starter Daniel Mengden who entered the game with a 1.81 earned run average. Mengden labored throughout his 3.1 innings and the Gauchos took advantage for six hits, three walks and five runs.
UCSB scored the game's first run in the second inning as Tyler Kuresa was walked to lead things off. One out later, Roserburg, Ore., native Cameron Newell lined a single to center, moving Kuresa to second. Luke Swenson then dropped a single down the left field line chasing home Kuresa.
The Gauchos made it 3-0 win a pair of runs in the top of the third. Leading things off, Joey Epperson singled through the left side and was sacrifice to second by Brandon Trinkwon. Woody Woodward, returning after missing the regular season finale with a variety of ailments, drilled a single into right field to score Epperson. Kuresa followed with a towering fly ball to left center field. Aggie center fielder Krey Bratsen made a long run to get to the ball, but then it popped out of his glove, allowing Woodward and making it 3-0.
Texas A&M got closer in the bottom half of the third when it scored an unearned run. Bratsen hit a grounder to third baseman Marc Venning to start things. Venning made the play but then tripped as he tried to make a throw and the batter was safe. After he was sacrificed to second, Bratsen scored on a double down the left field line by Mikey Reynonlds. Pettibone, however, got out of the inning wihout allowing another run.
Santa Barbara kept pecking away in the top of the fourth, scoring two more runs. After Swenson walked to start the inning, he moved to second on a balk by Mengden. One out later, Jackson Morrow laced a 2-2 offering through the hole at short to put runners on first and third. A single up the middle by Epperson scored Swenson with Morrow stopping at second. Both runners moved up 90 feet when Mengden unleashed a wild pitch.
The wild pitch was Mengden's final delivery of the afternoon as he was relieved by Matt Kent with one out and runners on second and third. The first batter Kent faced was Trinkwon and he hit a fly ball down the left field line. Chance Bolcerek caught the ball in foul territory, and Swenson raced home to give the Gauchos a 5-1 lead.
"I thought we were really efficient offensively and put some pressure on them," Checketts said. "We had some big hits and took advantage of what we were given."
Texas A&M parlayed three singles and a balk for a run in the bottom of the sixth to narrow the gap to 5-2, but after being stymied by Kent for 4.1 innings, UCSB got to him for a big insurance run after two were out in the top of the eighth.
After the first two batters were retired, Swenson singled deep in hole at short and beat the throw. He then stole second and scored on a triple to deep right center field by Venning, making the score 6-2.
Pettibone got the first two batters in the bottom of the eighth, but with two strikes he hit the Aggies' Blake Allemand and allowed a double to Cole Lankford, bringing Checketts to the mound for a pitching change. Pettibone received a well-earned round of applause from the partisan UCSB crowd and sophomore Greg Mahle was summoned.
Mahle, who pitched a no-hitter for the Corvallis Knights at OSU's Goss Stadium last summer, induced Hunter Melton to fly out to center to end the threat.
UCSB went down in order in top of the ninth, but that's when things got hairy.
Troy Stein and Logan Taylor hit back-to-back singles to start things and that brought Checketts out of the dugout again. This time he called for Hecht.
Stein and Taylor moved to third and second respectively on a passed ball, but pinch hitter Brandon Wood struck out. Bratsen rolled a single into center field to score Stein and push Taylor to third. Jace Statum drove a single into center field, scoring Taylor. Statum and Bratsen moved to second and third when Newell bobbled the ball, giving the Aggies a golden opportunity.
But Hecht was up to the task. First he got Reynolds to hit a foul pop-up in front of the Texas A&M dugout that Ryan Clark, a defensive replacement at third base, made an outstanding diving catch of and then he close the door, striking out Allemand.
"Dylan came in to close it out for us," Checketts said. "He kind of gave us all a heart attack, but he's been our closer all year and if you want to go to Omaha, you have to be able to win all kinds of different ways. You have to blow somebody out, you have to win a close one and you have to hang-on to one."
The Gauchos will play their second game of the Regional on Saturday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. They will take-on the winner of Friday's second game between the host, Oregon State, and Texas-San Antonio.
For those interested in attending, tickets are $20 per game and the purchaser will automatically be charged for the two games that UCSB is guaranteed. If the Gauchos advance beyond the two games your credit card will automatically be charged for those games at $20 each.
To purchase tickets for the Baseball regional in Corvallis please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Subject should read: UCSB Baseball. In the body please have your first and last name, quantity of tickets, and the phone number she can best reach you at. Payments must be made with Visa or MasterCard over the phone no exceptions. The credit card used to purchase will need to be present with photo ID at the player pass gate to pick-up. No orders will be accepted after 9am on Saturday, June 1.