LOS ANGELES – Juniors Peter Maris and Tyler Kuresa both clubbed home runs to drive in five runs as part of a 6-4 UC Santa Barbara win over nineteenth-ranked UCLA on Tuesday night, giving the Gauchos their first win at Jackie Robinson Stadium since 2011 and their best five-game start to a season since 2000 at 4-1.
It was also the first time since Apr. 20, 1999 that the Gauchos were able to top a defending College World Series champion (USC). UCLA dropped to 4-4 after the loss.
Maris, UCSB's shortstop who entered the game hitting .412, established the tone early with his third career roundtripper, also his first of the season. A slow offensive start to the game, evidenced by the two teams combining for just one hit over the first two innings, was instantly turned around by Maris's three-run shot over the right field fence in the top of the third. The flight of the ball led it to hit UCLA's 2013 championship banner and wound up putting the Gauchos ahead for good.
Catcher Jackson Morrow and third baseman Joey Epperson both scored on the homer after leading off the inning with back-to-back singles, UCSB's first hits of the game. Epperson was an offensive force all night for the Gauchos, leading all players with a three hits and a pair of runs scored.
UCLA answered right back with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame, scoring on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly and making the score 3-2.
Epperson and Maris teamed up to re-establish momentum in UCSB's favor in the fifth inning. The duo led off that frame with consecutive base hits, putting a runner in scoring position with no outs. With Kuresa at the plate, assistant coach Jason Hawkins called for a double steal, and it paid off as UCLA catcher Shane Zeil threw the ball away trying to catch Epperson, who scored easily on the error.
In the same at bat, Kuresa launched a two-run bomb, his second home run of the campaign, to right field.
UCSB's power display was especially impressive considering nationally-ranked UCLA hasn't hit a single home run in eight games at Jackie Robinson Stadium this season. The two homers were the only extra base hits by either team in the game.
The Gauchos' pitching staff, led by sophomore starter Domenic Mazza, did a good job of limiting the potent Bruins offense to four runs.
Mazza turned in the second longest start of his career on Tuesday, surrending two runs in 5.2 innings of work. The Concord, Calif. native retired the side in order on two occasions and did a nice job pitching out of a two-on jam in the fourth inning by coaxing a Cristopher Bono groundout.
In the sixth inning, Mazza's 99th pitch of the day resulted in the second base on balls issued by the southpaw, influencing head coach Andrew Checketts to bring in sophomore righty Connor Baits from the pen. It turned out to be a good move as Baits ended the inning after one pitch.
After the Bruins pushed across single runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, UCSB closer Dillon Tate was brought in for the most-high leverage save opportunity of his young career. Tate responded with a fastball that was clocked as high as 97 miles per hour, striking out the first two batters of the ninth before completing the 1-2-3 inning with a game-ending lineout.
The outing gave Tate his second save in as many opportunities.
UCSB will look to maintain its hot-hitting ways this weekend, as they are scheduled to host Ivy League member Princeton in a four-game series. Check back to UCSbgauchos.com, as forecasted storms are expected to affect the schedule.