MORAGA, Calif. – Sophomore third baseman JJ Muno singled and later scored on a Billy Fredrick sac fly to give No. 16 UC Santa Barbara the eventual game-winning run for a 4-3 win over St. Mary's in a wild extra innings affair Louis Guisto Field.
Facing a 3-1 deficit heading into the last of the eighth, St. Mary's (22-16) plated single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to send the game to extras.
Both teams then had golden opportunities to go ahead in the 10th.
The Gauchos (26-10-1) had the first go at it, loading the bases on three walks from reliever Jonathan Buckley, but new pitcher Tim Holdgrafer stopped the bleeding and ended the inning by getting UCSB's Devon Gradford to bounce out right in front of the catcher.
Then in the bottom half of the frame, the Gaels found themselves moments away from earning a walk-off win. But pinch runner Conor Thane, who came in for Anthony Villa after a two-out double, made a crucial error that cost his team.
Leading off third, Thane got a bad read on a Trevor Bettencourt pitch that got away from catcher Dempsey Grover and was unable to advance and score. Bettencourt, who improved to 3-1 and turned in an excellent two innings of relief, recovered to fan Matt Toscano and end the inning.
Muno and freshman second baseman Tevin Mitchell, UCSB's eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup on Tuesday, opened the 11th with back-to-back singles off Holdgrafer, giving the Gauchos two runners in scoring position after Andrew Calica's sacrifice bunt.
An intentional walk to freshman right fielder Michael McAdoo set up the force out at home and a double play up the middle, but none of that mattered when Fredrick lofted a fly ball to medium left-center field, scoring Muno.
Though the Gauchos couldn't inflict any more damage in the frame, Bettencourt didn't allow a hit in the bottom half to lock down the win.
Bettencourt's performance was the capstone of a great day of pitching for UCSB, as the team's three pitchers – including starter Kyle Hatton and lefty reliever Kyle Nelson – combined to allow just one earned run over 11 innings.
Hatton recovered from a shaky first inning in which he allowed two hits and walked in a run to log yet another quality start, his fourth in as many outings since earning the spot as UCSB's midweek starter. The freshman southpaw gave up just two hits and no runs over the rest of his six full innings, hitting the showers with a 2-1 lead.
Facing a 1-0 hole and squandering a number of opportunities early in the game, the Gauchos finally broke through in the middle innings.
UCSB evened the scoreline on a hustle play in the fifth, with Muno and Mitchell combining again to burn the Gaels. The former led off the inning by ripping a double down the fight field line. On the next play, Mitchell laid a bunt down the third baseline and legged it out for a single.
However, Muno – with some heads-up base-running – never stopped after breaking for third and was able to score while the Gaels were attempting to retire Mitchell at first.
UCSB rounded out their regulation scoring with RBI singles from Gradford in the sixth and Kyle Plantier in the eighth.
Though the Gauchos made three errors in the contest, they played some great defense – particularly late in the game – to eke out the win.
Fisher made one of the defensive plays of the year in the bottom of the eighth, ranging to his left into the outfield grass to field a Joey Fiske grounder and retire the runner at first.
Then in the 11th, Plantier made a great backhanded pick of a Charles Zaloumis liner to rob a base hit and make it a two-out, one-on situation for St. Mary's instead of two-on, one-out.
The Gauchos will return to Big West play this weekend as they host Hawaii for a three-game series starting at 3:00 p.m. on Friday.