UCSB Scores 29 Runs to Sweep Princeton Doubleheader, Series

Joey Epperson (Photo by Danielle Rodriguez)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After having its scheduled Saturday game cancelled due to rain, UC Santa Barbara brought a new storm to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Sunday, scoring 29 runs over two games to sweep a doubleheader from Princeton University and send the Tigers back to New Jersey with a winless record.

A wacky, see-saw first game ended with an 18-10 scoreline in favor of UCSB. The Gauchos wrapped up the twinbill with significantly more ease, winning by a score of 11-0. UCSB ended the day with a 7-1 record, while Princeton fell to 0-3 after the opening weekend to its season.

With the series win over Princeton, UCSB has now won eight series in a row dating back to last season.

High scoring games have been few and far between with Andrew Checketts at the helm of the program. This is the first time that UCSB and its opponent have both reached double-digits in runs since Feb. 18, 2012 against Oregon State, which was also Checketts's first win as a head coach. The Gauchos took that 12 inning contest by a score of 13-12.

UCSB's 29 runs was its most in two consecutive games since plating 32 in the final pair of games in a series against Saint Mary's on Mar. 14 and 15, 2009.

Though the scoring of the morning match seems lopsided, Princeton actually led that game 9-6 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. That deficit turned out to be more effective than the strongest espresso in jolting the Gauchos awake, as they outscored the Tigers 23-1 from that point on.

Sophomore designated hitter Robby Nesovic stood out on offense in particular. The powerful righty stoked UCSB's offensive fire in the opener by smacking three doubles and driving in four runs. He ended the day with a 5-9 line, five RBIs, and a pair of runs scored.

Senior third baseman Joey Epperson had yet another spectacular day with the bat as well, going 3-3 in the opener with three runs scored before going 2-4 in the nightcap. Epperson's line would have been even more impressive were it not for a web gem-esque leaping catch of a bases-loaded line drive by Princeton second baseman Danny Hoy in Epperson's final at bat of the day that denied UCSB's leadoff man another hit and at least two RBIs.

On the mound, the Gauchos were led by the two pitchers who would ultimately end up with the "W" in their respective games.

In the nightcap, freshman righty Shane Bieber recorded his first career win by tossing seven shutout innings and allowing just four hits, all of which were singles. After fanning just one batter in his collegiate debut, the command artist struck out a batter in each frame he pitched on Sunday.

The Laguna Hills, Calif. native finished strong by retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. He also showed poise beyond his years in pitching out of a bases-loaded, one out jam in the third by coaxing back-to-back flyouts to end the inning.

Freshman closer Dillon Tate pitched a scoreless eighth before the game was called due to darkness, giving him four appearances with no runs alllowed on the year.

In the morning game, junior Greg Mahle stabilized what had been a shaky collective UCSB pitching performance by tossing three innings of one-hit ball after coming in with a runner on and nobody out in the seventh. That single knock on Mahle's line came against the first batter he faced, a bloop single off the bat of Alec Keller. The Westminster, Calif. native quickly recovered, after intentionally walking the bases loaded, to retire Princeton's 4-5 hitters and extinguish the potential rally before any runs were scored. Mahle moved to 2-1 after earning the win.

Though they eventually won by eight runs, the first win was far from assured early in the game.

UCSB went ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first behind RBI doubles from Nesovic and junior outfielder Cameron Newell, but the Tigers came roaring back with five runs of their own in the top of the second to go back ahead. The Gauchos then answered back with four runs in the next half inning, highlighted by another RBI double from Nesovic, to go ahead 6-5.

Keller, Hoy, and catcher Tyler Servais each contributed RBI hits in a four-run third inning that knocked UCSB starter Dylan Hecht from the game and gave Princeton its biggest lead of the day at 9-6. The Gauchos fought back to tie the game with a two-run double from junior second baseman Woody Woodward in the fifth, but promptly fell behind 10-9 in the top of the sixth. 

UCSB shifted the scales in its favor permanently by scoring eight runs over the seventh and eighth innings. The decisive run was scored by Joey Epperson off an RBI double from shortstop Peter Maris just following the seventh inning stretch.

Though clutch hits were to be had in abundance, the Gauchos also thrived in other offensive areas, swiping nine bases on the day (with nobody caught stealing) to go along with four sacrifice flies and a whopping 10 hit-by-pitches.

This upcoming week, the Gauchos will welcome Waseda University of Japan to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for a Tuesday exhibition before heading to the University of Arizona this weekend for a three-team tournament featuring the Wildcats and Mississippi State. First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.