No. 22 Gauchos Take Both Ends of Hartford Twin Bill

Shane Bieber (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Shane Bieber (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 22 UC Santa Barbara won both games of its doubleheader against Hartford on Saturday, taking the opener by a score of 7-4 before securing a walk-off 2-1 win in the nightcap. 

UCSB improved to 11-3 on the season after the pair of wins, while Hartford dropped to 6-3. 

The Gauchos and Hawks were scheduled to begin their three-game set on Friday afternoon, but the series opener was postponed due to inclement weather. 

Strong starting pitching was the theme for UCSB in its double-win, with Shane Bieber tossing seven scoreless in the morning game and Noah Davis notching his second straight one-hit outing in the afternoon contest. Sophomore lefty Kyle Nelson tossed two innings of scoreless relief to finish off the nightcap, extending his NCAA-best streak of not allowing an earned run to 45 1/3 innings. 

The winning pitchers, Bieber and Nelson, each earned their third victory of the season. 

"Noah Davis was absolutely spectacular and Nelson was typically great in the second game," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "Bieber was excellent in the morning game as well. It's always hard to sweep a doubleheader so it's great that we were able to do that today."

On offense, Dempsey Grover and JJ Muno did the most damage overall with the bats. Grover was a team-best 3-6 and notched three sacrifice flies over the two games. Muno powered the Gauchos to victory in the morning game with a grand slam in the second inning, the first of his career. He ended the day 3-9 overall. 

The two teams will wrap up their series on Sunday afternoon with a 1:00 p.m. first pitch. Sophomore Joe Record (2-1, 2.25 ERA) will toe the rubber for UCSB opposite Hartford's Brian Murphy (1-1, 2.92 ERA). An audio broadcast and live stats can both be accessed through UCSBgauchos.com. 

GAME ONE RECAP

Junior right-hander Shane Bieber fired seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts – one short of his career high – and sophomore second baseman JJ Muno launched a second-inning grand slam to lead UCSB to a 7-4 win in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader with Hartford. 

Muno's slam, UCSB's first since 2010, capped off an early charge for the Gauchos that saw them score six runs over the first two innings. Leadoff hitter Andrew Calica scored the game's first run when he came home on a Dempsey Grover sac fly in the first. UCSB's other early run came across on an RBI infield single from sophomore first baseman Kyle Plantier

After Plantier's run-scoring knock, UCSB was able to load the bases when Calica was walked on four pitches. Despite Hartford starter Kyle Gauthier throwing five consecutive pitches outside the zone, Muno wasted no time in mashing the first pitch he saw into the tops of the trees overhanging the right field fence at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

Those six runs proved to be more than enough for Bieber, who turned in one of the finest starts of his collegiate career. UCSB's ace scattered six hits without a walk over seven strong innings.

He really settled into a rhythm after a two-hit first inning, as he notched a 1-2-3 inning four times over the final six frames of his start. Bieber was at his best in the fifth, needing just 12 pitches to strike out the side. 

The Hawks' bats began to come alive after Bieber exited the contest, plating one run in the eighth before stringing together a long rally in the top of the ninth. 

With one run already in during the frame and the bases loaded with nobody out, UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts summoned junior righty Trevor Bettencourt to stem the rally. 

Bettencourt responded in about the best possible fashion, inducing an infield pop-up, a sacrifice fly, and then striking out Hartford No. 3 hitter Chris DelDebbio on three pitches to end the game. Bettencourt received a save for his efforts, the first by a UCSB pitcher this season. 

GAME TWO RECAP

UCSB scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth to secure a walk-off 2-1 win in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader against Hartford. 

After being shut out for eight innings, pinch hitter Billy Fredrick kickstarted the decisive rally with a leadoff single into center field. 

The Gauchos twice attempted to sacrifice Devon Gradford – who pinch ran for Fredrick – into scoring position, but they instead ended up with the bases loaded and nobody out after a pair of Hartford miscues.

First, shortstop Clay Fisher was grazed on the helmet with a fastball while trying to bunt. The next batter, Ryan Clark, actually got his sacrifice bunt down, but the Hawks were unable to record an out after first baseman David McKinnon dropped the ball attempting to retire the lead runner at third. 

UCSB tied the game during the next at-bat, as Hartford center fielder Chris DelDebbio overran a shallow pop up from Calica, bringing in a run while keeping the bases loaded with nobody out. The Gauchos finished off the comeback two batters later when Dempsey Grover, who went 2-4 in the nightcap, skied a fly ball to the center field warning track for a game-winning sac fly. 

The result erased what would have been a harsh loss for starting pitcher Noah Davis, who allowed just one hit for the second straight outing while striking out a career-high 10 in seven full innings. The freshman right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. And as fate would have it, the first and only run Davis gave up brought in a run for the Hawks, with Billy Walker singling home TJ Walker to go up 1-0 just before the seventh inning stretch. 

Besides the minor blip in his last inning, he was outstanding in just his fourth collegiate start. 

Davis retired the first six batters he faced, went 1-2-3 on three occasions, and pitched ably out of jams in the third and sixth innings. In 15 innings over his last two starts, Davis has combined to allow just two hits and one run while striking out 15. 

Sophomore lefty Kyle Nelson (3-0) earned the win after tossing two innings of his typically stellar relief, allowing just a single hit. He extended his NCAA-best streak of not allowing an earned run to 45 1/3 consecutive innings. 

The Gauchos were a bit unlucky not get on the board in the fifth when JJ Muno had a would-be RBI extra base hit taken away by a great diving play by McKinnon, who dove to his left to catch a laser line drive mere inches above the first base bag.