DAVIS, Calif. – Clutch hitting and defensive execution made the difference on Thursday afternoon as UC Santa Barbara earned a 7-1 series opening win at UC Davis's Dobbins Stadium that kept the Gauchos playoffs hopes alive with two games left in the regular season.
UCSB, which likely needs a sweep to maintain hope for an at-large bid into the NCAA Regionals, improved to 32-17-1 (10-12 Big West) while the Aggies dropped to 23-29, 7-15.
Gaucho southpaw Justin Jacome surrendered nine hits in a seven-inning start, but ended up allowing just one run as the Gauchos defense turned three crucial double plays and received spectacular catches from each of the three starting outfielders, left fielder Joey Epperson, center fielder Scott Quinlan, and right fielder Cameron Newell.
Newell also matched career highs with three hits and two RBIs to spearhead a UCSB offensive effort that took advantage of Aggies defensive mishaps and scored seven runs.
In contrast to UCSB's all-around neatly executed day, UC Davis committed four fielding errors – three by usually steady shortstop Tino Lipson – and went just 1-9 as a team with runners in scoring position.
A pair of Aggies errors led to UCSB's first runs in the second. Sophomore designated hitter Robby Nesovic opened the inning by reaching on Lipson's first error before being sacrificed to second by Quinlan.
Newell followed that up with his first base hit of the day before UCD center fielder Kevin Barker bobbled the ball then tried to rush a throw home, allowing Nesovic to score and Newell to take second. That decision proved costly two batters later when sophomore third baseman Ryan Clark cashed in Newell with a single back up the middle.
UC Davis answered in the bottom of the second inning with their only run of the day, coming off an RBI single from catcher Spencer Brann.
From there on, it was all UCSB, as the Gauchos put up a three-spot in the sixth and scored single runs in both the third and seventh innings to easily handle the Aggies.
UCSB's three-run sixth was also error-aided. Quinlan opened the inning by reaching on an error, coming around when Newell doubled into the right-center gap.
Senior catcher Jackson Morrow then plated Newell with a safety squeeze, reaching first after the Aggies couldn't field the bunt in time. Clark, who had reached in the frame on a fielder's choice, then capped the inning's scoring when he came around on the final UCD error of the day.
Jacome, who was facing Davis for the first time in his career after missing them last year due to being pushed up for a pivotal midweek start at UCLA, earned his team-leading eighth win in ten decisions. It was his ninth quality start of the season, by far the most on the staff.
Sophomore righty Kenny Chapman shut out UC Davis over the final two innings of the game.
Aggies starter Spencer Koopmans was a tough-luck loser, falling to 4-3 despite allowing just one earned runs (five overall) in five-plus innings pitched.
Junior Austin Pettibone (4-1, 2.79 ERA) will take the ball for the Gauchos tomorrow as they aim for their third series win in their last four tries. The righty is coming off two consecutive complete game shutouts, the first pitcher in program history to accomplish that feat.
He will be opposed by UCD's Harry Stanwyck (3-7, 5.45 ERA), with first pitch scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The game can be streamed online at UCSBgauchos.com and can be heard over the air on KZSB AM 1290.