SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Sophomore catcher Dempsey Grover hit a monstrous leadoff homer over the left field scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth to break a 3-3 deadlock and deliver No. 16 UC Santa Barbara a 6-3 win over Hawaii on Saturday afternoon.
The victory was the 15th straight for the Gauchos (28-10-1, 7-4 Big West) on their home field, setting a new program record. It was also UCSB's first-ever series win over the Rainbow Warriors (18-22, 7-7) at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
"We had a lot of chances and didn't convert so everyone was a little frustrated," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "The key was guys staying composed, Grover for example, and continuing to plug away. We did a good job defensively and and on the mound which allowed us to keep throwing up zeroes."
Giving up just one hit over three shutout innings of relief, senior right-hander Trevor Bettencourt earned the victory to improve to 4-1 on the season.
After two scoreless frames to open the contest, the teams jockeyed for the lead in the middle innings.
UCSB struck the game's first blow in the bottom of the third, parlaying a leadoff single from Clay Fisher and some wildness from UH starter Kyle Von Ruden into a pair of runs.
Following Fisher's liner into center, Von Ruden hit a batter and then walked two in a row to force in a run. The Gauchos pushed another across when Austin Bush's shallow pop into right field fell between Hawaii's outfielders.
The Rainbow Warriors briefly took the lead with a three-run fourth – with most of the damage coming on an Ethan Lopez two-run bloop single into left field – but UCSB bounced right back to tie it in the bottom half of the frame on an unearned run.
The Gauchos had a number of chances to go ahead before Grover's blast, as they put the leadoff runner on in the final seven innings of the contest. However, Von Ruden and the UH bullpen pulled a number of escape acts to avoid falling behind.
None was bigger than in the seventh, when reliever Lawrence Chew inherited a runner on second with nobody out. The Hawaii southpaw got a pop-up and a flyout to left before ending the inning on a grounder to short, not even allowing Ryan Clark, who opened the inning with a double off the glove of third baseman Jonathan Weeks, to advance past second.
Unfortunately for the Rainbow Warriors, Chew's success against UCSB's mostly left-handed top of the lineup came to an abrupt end when the right-handed Grover came to the plate in the eighth. It was Grover's second roundtripper in as many days after entering the weekend with none to his name for the season.
Pitching a day earlier than his usual spot in the roration, sophomore righty Joe Record turned in another quality start, his seventh of the campaign. The Placentia, Calif. native allowed three earned over six innings with five hits and four walks to go along with three strikeouts.
Though he was strong early, he had to pitch out of trouble later in his outing, and no wiggle was more impressive than his sixth inning, when he negated a leadoff double with three straight outs, including a huge strikeout of Chayce Ka'aua for the second out.
UCSB will go for the sweep, potentially its fifth in as many series, tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.