No. 20 UCSB Hangs on For 4-3 Midweek Win at UCLA

Andrew Calica, below, is greeted by teammates after clubbing a solo home run in the third inning (photo by Gerry Fall)
Andrew Calica, below, is greeted by teammates after clubbing a solo home run in the third inning (photo by Gerry Fall)

LOS ANGELES – Despite squandering a 3-0 lead, No. 20 UC Santa Barbara kept its foot on the gas pedal and grinded out a big bounceback win at UCLA on Tuesday night by a score of 4-3, taking both games in the season series against the Bruins for the first time since 2006.

After UCLA scored three unearned runs in the seventh to tie the game, sophomore catcher Dempsey Grover had the big hit for UCSB (33-15-1), ripping a double into the left field corner to score JJ Muno for the game-winning run in the eighth inning. 

Muno, who scored half of UCSB's four runs, was a nuisance for the Bruins (24-26) all night.

He reached in the eighth with a perfectly placed push bunt to second base to set up the go-ahead run, and also created the Gauchos' single run in the fourth, reaching on catcher's interference before stealing second and third on consecutive pitches and scoring on a Kyle Plantier sac fly. 

Leadoff hitter Andrew Calica also had a huge game, homering off the light pole overlooking the right field fence to open the scoring in the third. He reached base four times in the contest, including a pair of hits by pitch which moved him into sole possession of the all-time UCSB record for career HBPs (49).

Calica also scored in the fifth on Clay Fisher's RBI double to make it 3-0 for the away team. 

Though the Gauchos combined for just six hits against the combined eight pitchers used by UCLA, they made them count by executing on the basepaths.

UCSB was 4-4 in stolen base attempts while the Bruins were 0-2 running on Grover and made a crucial blunder in the third, as leadoff hitter Brett Stephens was picked off by Kyle Hatton at second with two on and just one out. 

Hatton, who entered the game in the third in relief of starter James Carter, proceeded to get three-hitter Luke Persico to fly out to left to get out of the jam. 

UCSB's pitching staff – Hatton, Carter, Justin Kelly, and Kyle Nelson – combined to allow no earned runs in the contest and each Gaucho hurler had his moments on the mound. 

Carter, making his third straight controlled midweek start, threw 28 pitches over two shutout innings. 

He was followed by Hatton, who threw the bulk of innings for UCSB. The freshman southpaw gave up three runs, all unearned, but punched out four and looked in control on the mound early his 4 2/3 inning outing.

Kelly, who earned his first win in a Gaucho uniform, stemmed the bleeding in the seventh by punching out Jake Pries and then tossed a scoreless eighth. 

Finally, Nelson finished off the job for his seventh save of the season, shaking off a leadoff single to retire the final three batters in order. He made big pitches to the final two batters, getting Persico to roll over on a 3-1 changeup which failed to advance the runner and then inducing a check swing groundout from Kort Peterson to end the game. 

The Gauchos, who are 10-8 in Big West play, will look to make a charge up the Big West standings and cement their at-large candidacy this weekend as they travel to UC Irvine for a three-game conference set starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night.

The Saturday (FOX Sports Prime Ticket) and Sunday (ESPNU) games of that series will be televised while all three games will be covered live on the radio through UCSBGauchos.com, with Voice of the Gauchos Gerry Fall on the call.