SAN DIEGO – Head coach Andrew Checketts will have a new decoration for his office after his Gauchos beat the University of San Diego 9-3 to win the title game of the inaugural Tony Gwynn Classic on Sunday afternoon.
The UCSB (7-1) offense continued its early season surge in the win, with the Gauchos getting to the Torero pitching staff early and often. After scoring the game's first run in the bottom of the first, UCSB plated three runs apiece in both the fourth and fifth innings to go ahead decisively.
Outscoring their opponents 36-9 for the weekend, the Gauchos finished atop a prestigious field that included the likes of Kentucky, Nebraska, Tulane, Arizona, and San Diego State.
"The level of competition and the way this tournament was set up, this is kind of like a regional preview," said Checketts. "We came into it with a very businesslike attitude. It's pretty cool to be the first ones to win this tournament. Tony was a great player and coach who gave a lot back to the game, so it's really special."
In contrast to the big hits and long home runs that have been commonplace during this hot streak, the Gauchos jabbed away and took what USD gave them on Sunday, turning nine singles and six walks into seven runs through the first five frames.
Going 3-3 with a double and three runs scored was sophomore DH Austin Bush, who was named Tournament MVP after accruing a 7-11 line for the weekend with six runs driven in. The Turlock, Calif. native attributed much of his success to his teammates.
"Throughout the weekend we put together great at-bats," said Bush. "It's contagious really. I thought we were locked in from the very first pitch of the tournament. Ever since putting up a big game against Kentucky, we've just kept it rolling."
Bush started a key rally in the fourth by bouncing a single back up the middle. UCSB loaded the bases with a base hit and walk, then received a bit of help when USD second baseman Brhet Bewley airmailed a double play turn over the first baseman's head, allowing a run to come in and extending the inning. All-Tournament team honoree Ryan Clark (2-3) made them pay two batters later with an RBI single into left field that brought the eventual game-winning run in.
As was the case all weekend, UCSB's starting pitcher had to remain focused despite spending the majority of the contest in the dugout. Sophomore right-hander Joe Record followed up a stellar 2016 debut (seven innings pitched, three hits, one run vs. USF) with another solid outing on Sunday, allowing just two earned runs while pitching into the seventh.
"I was throwing strikes today and my defense was making some pretty sweet plays," said Record. "That's all it was. It's a pretty simple combination.
With 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief, sophomore lefty Kyle Nelson extended his UCSB record streak to 36 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
The Gauchos face one of their toughest tests of the season this week, hosting No. 15 UCLA at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium before traveling north for a three-game set against No. 12 Oregon starting on Friday.
"We're playing pretty well but we're hungry," said Record. "We're not content, we want to get back out there and keep getting wins."