SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Behind a dominant 7.2 inning start from sophomore lefty Domenic Mazza and another solid offensive day, No. 15 UC Santa Barbara beat Wagner College by a score of 9-2 on Sunday afternoon, earning the Gauchos their first four-game sweep since the 2010 season.
Fresh off the best performance of his career last Sunday against Wichita State (6.2 innings pitches, one earned run, seven strikeouts), Mazza bested himself with an absolute gem against the Seahawks, striking out 10 batters and allowing just one earned run on four hits while pitching into the eighth inning.
It was the deepest he has ever worked into a game during his time at UCSB, and his strikeout total set a new career-high and was the first time since Apr. 10, 2012 that a Gauchos pitcher reached double digits in punchouts (Matt Vedo, 12 against Cal Poly).
Mazza, who improved to 2-1 on the year, was able to pitch late thanks to incredible efficiency, tossing 72 of of his 107 pitches for strikes. He retired 12 straight Seahawks at one point between the fourth through eighth innings.
Having won the first three games of the series already, this is the Gauchos' first four-game sweep of an opponent since Mar. 12-14, 2010 against Northern Illinois.
The Gauchos, who possess a 17-3 overall record and an 11-1 mark at home, are off to their best starts in both figures since the 1984 season (19-1 and 11-1, respectively).
After ending his 24-game hitting streak yesterday, Epperson answered in about the best way possible, going 4-5 with four runs driven in. With his four knocks, Epperson raised his season average to .493 and should enter the week as the leading batter in the NCAA.
Calica and Epperson teamed up directly to manufacture UCSB's first two runs. Calica, hitting in the leadoff position, reached in both the first and third innings (hit by pitch and single, respectively) and was able to steal second both times before being knocked in by Epperson singles.
Epperson scored himself in the third on an RBI single from Scott Quinlan to put UCSB up 3-0. That run held up as the eventual game winner.
The Gauchos created more distance with a two-run fifth, as sophomore designated hitter Robby Nesovic lined an RBI single to score Peter Maris before Epperson came around again on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Wagner reliever Steven Bloodworth.
Wagner showned some signs of life in the eighth inning, as shortstop Nick Mascelli drove in the team's first run of the day with an RBI single to right before scoring on the next play when Chris Smith laced a double into the left field corner, bringing the score to 5-2.
The next half inning, UCSB answered right back to shut the door by taking advantage of some Wagner control issues. After loading the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch, Maris grounded into an RBI fielder's choice before Epperson drove in two more with a line drive single into right-center field.
Greg Mahle capped the day's scoring with his first hit of the year, ripping an RBI double down the right field line to plate Epperson.
Sophomore righty Hector Lujan pitched a hitless top of the ninth to lock down the win for UCSB.
Each of Wagner's top four batters went 1-4 on the day, but the bottom five spots were a collective 2-15. Starter Paul Mammino was tagged with the loss after allowing five runs in four innings.
This week, the Gauchos travel to Fresno State for a Tuesday showdown before opening Big West conference play this weekend at home against Hawai'i. UCSBgauchos.com and AM 1290 will both carry Tuesday's game, with first pitch set for 6:35 p.m.