Gauchos Drop 7-4 Decision to St. Mary's in First Midweek of the Year

Dempsey Grover (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Dempsey Grover (Photo by Vince Agapito)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – St. Mary's College scored five runs as part of a decisive eighth inning rally to claim a 7-4 win over UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium in the first midweek contest of the season for either team. 

The loss meant the end of a four-game win streak for UCSB, which dropped to 4-1. 

St. Mary's (4-1) scored a pair of runs on an infield single in the top of the first to go ahead, but then went scoreless over their next six turns at bat before stringing together the eighth inning five-spot. 

The Gaels mid-game lull allowed UCSB to chip away and briefly take the lead. 

In the bottom of the fifth, sophomore second baseman JJ Muno continued his strong start to the season by driving a 1-0 fastball off the right-center field fence for an RBI single to get UCSB on the board. 

The Gauchos had their biggest offensive inning in the seventh, scoring a trio of runs off four hits and an SMC error. 

Junior center fielder Andrew Calica started off that inning by legging out an infield single to deep shortstop. A walk and sacrifice bunt later and the Gauchos had two runners in scoring position with one out. 

With a lead of just one run, St. Mary's opted to bring their entire infield in. That move backfired when second baseman Zach Kirtley mishandled a grounder off the bat of sophomore Kyle Plantier, allowing Calica to score. Catcher Dempsey Grover and shortstop Clay Fisher followed that up with run-scoring base hits up the middle to put UCSB ahead 4-2. 

Things went south almost immediately thereafter for the Gauchos, as the first five batters of the inning reached for the Gaels. SMC tied the game after singles into left field from Nate Nolan and Joey Fiske, then went up for good when Conor Thate chopped a grounder into the 5-6 hole for a run-scoring fielder's choice. Another two runs would come across before UCSB could record three outs.

Anthony Gonsolin, who started the game at right field for SMC, slammed the door from there on as the Gaels' closer, tossing up 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth to earn the six-out save.  

Sophomore lefty Kyle Nelson was a key figure for UCSB while attempting its comeback bid early, as the southpaw retired all nine batters he faced in his three innings in relief of starter Chris Clements

He was especially impressive in the fourth, getting Jackson Thoreson and Edward Haus to chase breaking balls in the dirt to end the inning after he inherited a two-on, one-out situation. Nelson then proceeded to strike out the side in the fifth before making way for righty Trevor Bettencourt, who ended up taking the loss for UCSB, with one out in the seventh. 

Dating back to last season, Nelson has now gone 32 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run spanning 16 appearances. 

Clements had a decent showing in his first start of the year, retiring eight of the 10 batters he faced after the two-run single in the first. He ended the day with a line of two runs and three hits allowed with five strikeouts and three walks in 3 2/3 innings pitched. 

Next up, the Gauchos will travel to San Diego to play three games in the inaugral Tony Gwynn Classic. UCSB first faces Kentucky at 1:00 p.m. on Friday.