Gauchos Rally Back to Squeak by Highlanders, 6-5

Robby Nesovic (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Robby Nesovic (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UCSB clawed their way back from a 5-3 deficit with three runs combined in the sixth and seventh innings to escape with a 6-5 victory Saturday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

UC Santa Barbara improved to 26-10, 7-7 on the season with the series clincher and now have won three games straight. UC Riverside dropped to 17-21, 6-5 with the loss and have gone in the exact opposite direction, losing their third game in a row.

The Gauchos were led offensively by Robby Nesovic and Campbell Wear, each collecting two hits and a walk while combing for three RBIs. Tyler Kuresa also had a multi-hit day at the plate while Joey Epperson was hitless, but drew two walks. 

The Highlanders drew first blood, scoring three runs in the first inning, highlighted by Francisco Tellez's two-run home run over the right field fence. After being hitless through two innings, the Gauchos would roar back and tie the score with three runs of their own in the third. Wear and Woody Woodward sparked the rally, leading off the inning with infield singles. They would move to third on Peter Maris's sacrifice bunt, and Wear would score on a sacrifice fly from Kuresa after Epperson walked to load the bases. With Woodward and Epperson on second and third and two outs, Nesovic came through as usual, sending both of them home with a single to left and tying the game at 3-3. 

UC Riverside broke the tie instantly, scoring two runs of their own on Matthew Ellis's RBI single and Cody Hough's RBI fielder's choice. UCSB would get two baserunners in both the fourth and fifth innings, but could not score. The Highlanders could not hold off the Gauchos in the sixth inning however, as Wear cut the lead in half with an RBI double, scoring Cameron Newell from first. UCSB would turn the tables for good on UC Riverside in the seventh, thanks to an error from the third baseman Cody Hough on Devon Gradford's sacrifice bunt with Nesovic and Kuresa on first and second and no outs. Kuresa would score on the error, with Nesovic advancing to third and Gradford reaching second. Newell would do enough to grab the lead for the Gauchos, hitting an RBI groundout to second to score Nesovic and give UCSB a 6-5 lead that would hold up thanks to a great bullpen effort.

After the Highlanders scored two runs in the fourth, UCSB starter Austin Pettibone, Greg Mahle, and Dillon Tate pitched five scoreless innings, allowing the Gauchos come back and hold on for the 6-5 victory. Pettibone struggled early with five runs allowed, four earned, in the first four innings, but recovered to get through six innings with no further damage. Mahle would pitch a scoreless seventh inning and recorded the win, improving to 6-2 on the season. Tate had an outstanding day, pitching two no-hit innings with five strikeouts to record his 10th save of the season.

Zack Varela started the game on the mound for UC Riverside, pitching six innings with four earned runs allowed. Angel Landaruzi allowed two runs, one earned, in 1.2 innings. Landaruzi allowed the tie-breaking run, thus recording the loss and dropping to 2-2 on the year. 

Devin Bolasky, Tellez, and Drake Zarate led the way on offense for the Highlanders, each recording multiple hits. David Andriese was hitless, but drew three of the team's four walks.

UCSB and UC Riverside face off tomorrow afternoon as the Gauchos go for the sweep. First pitch begins at 1:00 p.m.