No. 11 Gauchos Clinch LBSU Series Behind 3-1 Saturday Win

Noah Davis (Photo by Mike Nesbit)
Noah Davis (Photo by Mike Nesbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – First baseman Austin Bush went 3-4 with a pair of doubles, second baseman JJ Muno knocked in two of No. 11 UC Santa Barbara's three runs, and freshman right-hander Noah Davis tossed eight solid innings of one-run ball as the Gauchos knocked off No. 16 Long Beach State 3-1 for a series-clinching win at Blair Field on Saturday afternoon. 

The back-to-back wins puts UCSB (20-5, 2-0 Big West) in position to sweep the Dirtbags (16-10, 0-2) at Blair for the first time since 2004. 

It was another come-from-behind win for the Gauchos, who went down 1-0 on Garrett Hampson's leadoff home run in the bottom of the first. 

Undeterred as usual, UCSB went on to tie the game in the fourth before going ahead for good in the seventh as Davis recovered to keep the Dirtbags off the board for the rest of his outing. 

Muno provided the game-tying hit in the fourth, stroking a single to score DH Dempsey Grover, who led off the inning by reaching after getting hit with an 0-2 pitch. Grover got into scoring position via Bush's first double, a liner into the left-center field gap. 

With Davis shutting down LBSU – he faced just over the minimum over innings four through seven – the Gauchos took advantage and took the lead in the top of the seventh. 

Catcher Thomas Rowan, normally Grover's back up behind the dish, delivered the big hit of that rally, leading off the frame with a solidly-struck double into left-center. After a wild pitch moved him to third, he came around on a Billy Fredrick sac fly for the eventual game-winning run. 

Another Bush double and another RBI base hit from Muno gave UCSB a much-needed insurance run in the eighth.

While UCSB's bats did enough to get the win, the Gauchos' gloves were arguably just as crucial to the victory. 

Left fielder Devon Gradford made the play of the game in the seventh, just moments after entering the contest as a defensive sub. 

With a runner on second and two outs, Garrett Nelson lined a solid single to left that looked like it could bring the tying run home. But a charging Gradford scooped the ball up and delivered a strike to Rowan at the plate to cut down David Banuelos and end the inning. 

As usual, shortstop Clay Fisher had a sterling game on defense as well, making a nice running catch on a would-be Hampson bloop single in the eighth and turning the second half of a critical 4-6-3 double play to end the fourth inning. He also doubled to open the third, his first extra-base hit since Opening Day.

Finishing the day with a line of one earned run allowed on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts over eight full innings, Davis moved to 3-0 on the season while the Gauchos remain an undefeated 7-0 in games started by the preseason Big West Freshman of the Year. 

Conversely, the Gauchos' win ended a number of streaks for Long Beach. It was the first loss of the season for starting pitcher Darren McCaughan (4-1), LBSU's first series loss of the season, and the first time the Dirtbags lost on a Saturday this season. 

Lefty Kyle Nelson pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth for his team-leading fourth save of the season. 

Sophomore righty Joe Record (3-2, 4.50 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Gauchos tomorrow as they go for the sweep opposite LBSU righty Tanner Brown (3-1, 3.74 ERA). First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m., and UCSBgauchos.com will have a live audio broadcast available via the baseball schedule page or by clicking here.