SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 22 UC Santa Barbara shook off an early five-run deficit to complete its sweep of Hartford via a 7-6 comeback win on a cold and cloudy Sunday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Sophomore catcher Dempsey Grover capped off a strong weekend with a pair of doubles and three runs scored in the Gaucho win while Trevor Bettencourt and Kyle Nelson combined to throw four innings of shutout relief to aid the comeback effort.
UCSB (12-3) chipped away at the lead after falling behind 6-1 after three innings, plating two runs in the fourth, another run in the fifth, and then taking the lead with a three-run seventh.
As was the case all weekend, the Gauchos capitalized on Hartford's (6-4) mistakes as part of that go-ahead rally. Hawks reliever Seth Pinkerton opened the inning with a hit by pitch and two walks, allowing UCSB to load the bases without taking a swing.
New pitcher Sam McKay induced a double play that brought a run in a run for UCSB but threatened to bring about an early end to the offensive charge. Fortunately for the Gauchos, junior left fielder Billy Fredrick stepped up and bounced a game-tying RBI single through the side before sophomore first baseman Kyle Plantier got ahold of a McKay offering and shot it over center fielder Chris DelDebbio's head for a go-ahead RBI double.
From there Nelson entered the game in the top of the eighth and shut the door on Hartford, allowing just a single hit while striking out a pair in his two innings of work. The southpaw ended the game by getting David MacKinnon to golf a high fly ball to left field.
UCSB's relief ace earned his first save of the year for his exploits while extending his streak of not allowing an earned run to 47 1/3 innings. That is the longest such streak in the entire NCAA by a wide margin.
Hartford went ahead big early thanks to productive innings in the first and third frames.
The Hawks strung together three doubles and a sac fly in the game's first inning to go ahead 3-0. UCSB got a run back in the bottom half of the frame, but then Hartford put themselves in good shape when Billy Walker hit a three-run homer in the third to go up 6-1.
That was all the scoring the visitors would do however, as starting pitcher Joe Record recovered and faced the minimum after the third inning blast. He ended the day with five strikeouts and six earned runs on nine hits and a pair of walks over five full innings.
Bettencourt took over in the sixth for UCSB, dominating in his two innings of relief. The one hit he allowed, a two-out single in the seventh, turned into an out after Fredrick gunned down the runner trying to take second base.
McKay was charged with the loss, his first decision of the year, after allowing three hits and one earned run over two innings. Hartford starter Brian Murphy gave up four earned runs and struck out one over 4 1/3 innings.
With no midweek game due to final examinations, the Gauchos won't play until next weekend as they welcome in UConn for a three-game series at Caesar Uyesaka starting on Friday, Mar. 18 at 3:00 p.m.