RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Thanks to a nine-run rally in the first inning and a career-best six-RBI performance from reigning Big West Field Player of the Week Andrew Calica, eighth-ranked UC Santa Barbara steamrolled UC Riverside 20-2 in Thursday night's ESPN3-televised series opener at the Riverside Sports Complex.
The 20 runs were the most scored by the Gauchos (40-13-1) in a single game since Mar. 27, 2009 (UCSB won 21-12 over CSUN). In addition, the team's six collective doubles represented a new season best, while their seven extra-base hits were tied for the most.
The victory also clinched the 40th win of the season for UCSB, a first for the program since 2001 and just the sixth all-time. At 16-6 in Big West play, they sit a half-game behind Cal State Fullerton in the conference standings with two games to go.
Besides Calica, Luke Swenson (5-5, four RBIs) and Clay Fisher (3-5. four RBIs) also set new career bests in the run-producing department. It was the first time this season that three separate Gauchos drove in at least four runs.
Things started off disastrously for UCR (13-40, 2-19 Big West), which allowed two runs and loaded the bases – on four walks and a hit by pitch – before a single swing was taken by the Gauchos. The first UCSB player to take the bat off his shoulder was Swenson, the No. 6 batter in the lineup, who smashed an RBI double into the left-center field gap to put the Gauchos up 4-0.
Fisher (single) and Campbell Wear (double) followed up with two-run hits as part of a rally that saw 10 consecutive Gauchos batters reach base.
The rally could only be stopped when UCR inserted Jordan Kron, its third pitcher of the frame. He recorded three consecutive outs to stop the bleeding, but not before allowing an RBI double down the left field line to Calica.
UCSB would go on to score single runs in the next three frames, then a five-run sixth cemented the victory for good.
Calica highlighted that rally with a three-run blast over the right field fence, his first career home run. The redshirt sophomore sat on a 1-0 fastball, sending a frozen rope just over the 10-foot wall, scoring Wear and Fisher and putting UCSB 17-1.
The Gaucho center fielder then closed his RBI account in the seventh, chopping a grounder through the middle for a two-run single.
Getting staked to a 9-0 lead and being forced into a 30-minute hiatus before he was allowed to throw his first pitch of the game, UCSB starting pitcher Domenic Mazza was just what his team needed in the blowout win, as he was straightforward and efficient in his eight-inning outing.
The junior southpaw needed just 87 pitches to complete his start, issuing just one walk while striking out four. He scattered seven hits, ending the day with two earned runs against.
Junior right-hander Connor Baits came in to finish the job in the ninth, tossing a scoreless inning in his first appearance since May 9.
Mazza was starting in place of usual ace Dillon Tate, who is being held out of the rotation this week in order to rest for the upcoming postseason.
With an eighth inning pinch-hit at-bat and subsequent defensive assignment, first baseman Dalton Kelly made his first appearance in a UCSB uniform since fracturing his right fibula at Cal State Northridge on Apr. 12.
The Gauchos will go for the series win tomorrow, also on ESPN3, behind the left arm of junior southpaw Justin Jacome (7-3, 2.46). He will be opposed by UCR's Joie Dunyon (1-4, 4.85). With a win tomorrow or Saturday, UCSB will clinch the best single-season winning percentage in program history.