No. 13 UCSB Clinches Series Over CSUN With 5-4 Victory

Billy Fredrick (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Billy Fredrick (Photo by Vince Agapito)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 13 UC Santa Barbara clinched its fifth straight series win over Cal State Northridge on Saturday afternoon by virtue of a 5-4 decision at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Five different Gauchos (23-7-1, 4-1 Big West) recorded an RBI in the win, producing just enough offense to overcome a 12-hit afternoon from the Matadors (22-12, 1-7).

Leading for the majority of the game, UCSB had its work cut out after CSUN tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh. But as has been the case on many occasions this year, the Gauchos rose to the occasion and produced a go-ahead rally in the last of the eighth.

Sophomore left fielder Billy Fredrick started things off for the home team by yanking a liner into right field for a leadoff single. Pinch runner Devon Gradford then moved into scoring position on a Kyle Plantier sacrifice bunt.

The next batter, sophomore second baseman JJ Muno, delivered the decisive hit, bouncing a chopper into the 3-4 hole. Moving to his right, CSUN first baseman Branden Berry couldn't come up with it and the ball ended up in shallow right field, allowing Gradford to score easily.

From there, UCSB's star left-handed reliever Kyle Nelson shut the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to pick up his fifth win of the year in as many decisions.

The late inning dramatics meant no-decisions for both starting pitchers.

UCSB freshman Noah Davis bounced back after a rough start at Charleston to log his seventh quality start of the year. He allowed three earned over six-plus innings. His counterpart, CSUN southpaw Kenny Rosenberg, allowed UCSB's first four runs but struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings.

"We gave up the lead there near the end but Nelson settled in after that and threw up zeroes," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "Offensively, we did a good job scrapping and battling against one of the best pitchers we've seen this year."

CSUN opened the game's scoring on an RBI single from Berry – who drove in three runs on Saturday – in the third but the Gauchos answered right back with a big three-run rally in the bottom half of the frame.

UCSB shortstop Clay Fisher opened the rally when he was hit on the foot with a two-strike breaking ball, and then Ryan Clark put the Gauchos in business when he sent a screamer back up the middle for a base hit.

Trying to make a highlight-reel play, Rosenberg ended up helping the Gauchos on the next play. As UCSB leadoff man Andrew Calica bounced another comebacker back up the middle. Rosenberg spun and tried to make a backhanded stab at it, but unfortunately for the Matadors it instead took a sharp carom off his glove and ended up In right field to bring in the tying run.

Michael McAdoo followed up with a bloop single to score another run before a bases loaded walk to catcher Dempsey Grover capped the rally. 

In the fifth, Grover helped the Gauchos score a key insurance run with a two-out double, coming around to score when Fredrick rolled a base hit through the left side.

Berry gave CSUN hope in the seventh when he ripped a double into the left field corner to score a pair and make it 4-4, but Nelson did a fine job to stop the damage there, getting a groundout and strikeout to stem the rally.

UCSB will look for its first sweep of the Matadors in the Checketts era tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Joe Record (3-1, 4.34 ERA) is expected to toe the rubber for the Gauchos opposite CSUN righty Andrew Weston (5-3, 3.08 ERA). UCSBGauchos.com will have a live audio broadcast of that game, which can be heard here