CHARLESTON, S.C. – Less than 24 hours after nailing down a key come-from-behind victory over No. 24 College of Charleston, twelfth-ranked UC Santa Barbara was doomed by a big fifth inning from the Cougars on Saturday, dropping the middle game of the series by a score of 10-3 at Patriots Point.
Middle infielders JJ Muno and Clay Fisher had two hits apiece to lead the Gaucho (21-7) offense. Sophomore lefty Kyle Nelson and freshman right-hander Kevin Chandler each turned in hitless relief outings as well.
Trailing 3-2 heading into the last of the fifth, Charleston (21-10) quickly turned the tide of the game and the series by turning a two-out, nobody on situation into a six-run rally after having six consecutive batters reach base off Gauchos starter Noah Davis.
The Cougars first loaded the bases on a single, double, and hit by pitch. Morgan Phillips and Jake Maziar then brought in a trio of runs to put CoC ahead 5-3 on back-to-back RBI singles. First baseman Bradley Jones then provided the coup de grace with a three-run homer to right-center for an 8-3 lead.
From there, the Cougars bullpen kept UCSB off the board after an up-and-down start from Bailey Ober. The 6-8 right-hander struck out six over 6 1/3 innings with three earned runs against for a quality start, but also issued five free passes and was in line for the loss before the fifth-inning outburst.
A trio of CoC relievers – Will Detwiller, Justin Baker, and Michael Carpin – combined to hold the Gauchos without a hit for the final 2 2/3 frames of the contest.
UCSB briefly led the game after working to score three runs off Ober early.
Sophomore left fielder Josh Adams got the ball rolling with an RBI groundout in the third to score Fisher, who reached third on a passed ball and sac bunt after singling to lead off the inning.
The very next inning, Fisher provided UCSB's biggest hit of the game, shooting a liner into the right-field corner for a two-run triple that made it 3-2, the first three-bagger of the season for the Gauchos' slick-fielding shortstop.
The Cougars notched a pair of insurance runs in the seventh, but other than that the Gauchos bullpen was superb, with Nelson and Chandler combining for 2 1/3 innings of hitless, shutout relief.
Davis was tagged with the loss, the first of his collegiate career, after allowing eight earned on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Ober earned the victory for Charleston to move to 3-1 on the year.
The Gauchos and Cougars will play the rubber match of their three-game series tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. PDT. Sophomore righty Joe Record (3-3, 4.04 ERA) is slated to take the ball for UCSB.