SAN JOSE, Calif. – In the series opener between UC Santa Barbara and host San Jose State at Municipal Stadium, sophomore utility player Robby Nesovic doubled home Joey Epperson in the top of the 10th inning to break a 2-2 deadlock and give the Gauchos a hard-fought win over the Spartans, who had a chance to tie the game in the bottom half but couldn't come up with a clutch hit.
UCSB improved to 2-0 following the win, while SJSU dropped to 1-5. The Gauchos have won eight straight games over the Spartans dating back to the 2011 season.
Epperson, UCSB's senior third baseman, led off the first frame of extra innings with a four-pitch walk, and then advanced to second on a Peter Maris sacrifice bunt. After working into a 3-1 hitter's count, Nesovic lined a D.J. Sharabi pitch down the left field line for a standup two-bagger, easily scoring the Gauchos leadoff man.
The Spartans made it interesting in the next half-inning, landing a runner in scoring position with nobody out after a UCSB throwing error. However, the Gauchos bullpen was unflappable, with junior lefty Greg Mahle getting Sheldon Daquioag to roll over before sophomore closer Dillon Tate – making his first appearance of the season – coaxed two consecutive SJSU groundouts to end the game.
It was another strong overall performance by the UCSB bullpen, which put together five shutout innings to lead the team to victory in Tuesday's season-opener. Sophomore Connor Baits, Mahle, and Tate combined to toss another four scoreless innings on Friday. Mahle would end up with the win, his first of the season, while Tate picked up his first save in his new role.
Receiving a no-decision in the victory was sophomore starter Justin Jacome, who allowed just two runs and struck out four in six innings of work. He scattered seven hits – all singles – to keep the Gauchos in contention. Despite the strong effort, he allowed RBI singles in the second and fourth innings, leaving the game in line for the loss.
The UCSB offense would come to Jacome's rescue in the eighth inning. Junior second baseman Woody Woodward started the charge with a leadoff infield single, reaching second on a Nesovic sac bunt. With two outs, Tyler Kuresa – Tuesday's home run hero – sent an 0-1 pitch right back up the middle to plate Woodward and knot the score.
Four Gaucho batters ended the night with multiple hits, including Woodward, Nesovic, centerfielder Andrew Calica, and leftfielder Cameron Newell. Calica's seeing-eye single into left field plated Newell in the second inning to open the scoring and give UCSB a short-lived lead.
San Jose State was led offensively by leftfielder Brett Bautista, who went 3-4 with one of his team's RBIs. Starter Johnny Melero went 5.2 innings and allowed just one run on eight hits.
The Gauchos and Spartans go right back at it tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 p.m. UCSB freshman righty Shane Bieber is set to make his collegiate debut opposite SJSU's Jonathan Hernandez.