Muno, Bieber Lead Gauchos to Opening Day Win Over San Francisco

JJ Muno clubbed his first career HR in a 8-2  UCSB win on Opening Day (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
JJ Muno clubbed his first career HR in a 8-2 UCSB win on Opening Day (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Redshirt sophomore second baseman JJ Muno finished a single short of UCSB's first cycle in almost 20 years and junior starter Shane Bieber fired seven innings of two-run ball as UC Santa Barbara knocked off San Francisco by a score of 8-2 on Opening Day at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

Muno collected extra-base hits in his first three at-bats of the contest, doubling then scoring in the first inning, tripling home a pair in the second, and then capping off his day with a two-run home run over the right-center field fence, the first of his collegiate career.

He recorded outs in his final two trips to the plate, just missing becoming the first Gaucho to hit for the cycle since Michael Young in 1997. His exploits helped UCSB win its fourth consecutive opening day on its home field. 

Though Muno was UCSB's offensive catalyst, sophomore DH Austin Bush (two runs scored, one double) and sophomore catcher Dempsey Grover (two hits, two RBIs) had nice debuts with the bat. 

Getting spotted a 5-1 lead after two frames relieved some of the pressure that comes with starting on Opening Day for Bieber, who had an outing reminiscent of his standout sophomore campaign, scattering seven hits for two runs while inducing 10 groundouts and four punchouts over seven innings. 

He seemed to gain steam as the game went on and was especially strong in the middle innings, facing the minimum amount of batters from the start of the third to the end of the sixth. 

"Bieber gave us a really good effort today," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "He was filling up the strike zone and he had a lot of poise, which isn't necessarily the case with a lot of guys in their first outing of the year."

He was lifted at the end of the seventh inning, making way for Chris Clements. The sophomore righty looked sharp in his season debut as well, allowing just a walk in two innings of relief. Clements was busy despite the short outing, recording a putout or assist on four of his six outs. 

After Bieber retired the side in order to open the contest, Muno provided the first hit of the season in the bottom half by stroking a first-pitch offering from USF freshman starter Thomas Ponticelli into the right-center gap for a two-bagger. He came around to score on a Kyle Plantier infield single before Grover smashed a double into left-center field that scored a pair, including the eventual game-winner. 

Though he more or less contained the majority of the UCSB lineup after that, Muno continued to abuse Ponticelli in his NCAA debut, driving in four more runs before the fifth inning was out. The first two came across when Muno ripped a one-hopper just over the first base bag in the second for a triple, and then he roped his first career roundtripper in the fourth.  

Ponticelli ended up getting tagged with the loss on the day after allowing eight runs - seven earned - with three walks and one strikeout in five innings. USF relievers Frank Waliczek, Jacob Alcorn, and Joey Carney combined to allow just one hit in the final three innings of the game. 

Despite it being the first game of the season, UCSB's defense sure didn't look rusty as evidenced by the pair of web gems turned in by right fielder Josh Adams and third baseman Ryan Clark.

Starting in right field for the first time in his career, Adams looked like a grizzled vet in the second inning when he sprinted towards the right field foul line and laid out to make a full-extension catch of a tailing line drive off the bat of Manny Ramirez Jr., son of the former Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder. 

Later in the second, Clark showed top-notch reflexes when a chopper towards third took an odd carom off the lip of the infield grass towards the third base dugout. Clark reacted quickly and barehanded the bounce, just getting the runner with a one-hop throw to first. Clark also started a key 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth. 

UCSB and San Francisco resume their four-game series with a doubleheader tomorrow starting at 11:00 a.m. Freshman righty Noah Davis will make his collegiate debut in the opener while senior lefty Justin Kelly will make his first start with UCSB in the nightcap, which will start approximately 30 minutes following the conclusion of game one.