No. 20 UCSB Drops 5-4 Nailbiter to UC Irvine

Justin Kelly delivered 4.1 solid innings of relief on Saturday (photo by Gerry Fall)
Justin Kelly delivered 4.1 solid innings of relief on Saturday (photo by Gerry Fall)

IRVINE, Calif. – Adam Alcantara hit a bases loaded grounder into the 5-6 hole to drive in the walk-off run for UC Irvine in a 5-4 win over No. 20 UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night in a contest televised live by FOX Sports Prime Ticket. 

UCSB third baseman JJ Muno stepped and dove far to his left to stop Alcantara's hard-struck grounder off closer Kyle Nelson, but couldn't get to his feet and settle in time to make a good throw to home as Evan Cassolato came in for the game-winning run. 

The win evened the series for UCI (29-23, 9-11 Big West) after the Gauchos (34-16-1, 11-9) scored a big 10-3 victory in the opener on Friday. 

UCSB put together a pair of rallies early to go up 3-0 after three and a half, but the Anteaters responded with a three-spot in the bottom of the fourth to make it a new ballgame. 

UCI took its first lead of the game in the next inning on an RBI double from Adam Alcantara, and a great play from Gaucho second baseman Tevin Mitchell prevented the home team from creating an even bigger lead.

With Alcantara's grounder snaking into the right field corner and one runner already in, Mitchell received the throw from right fielder Devon Gradford near the second base bag, and then pivoted and delivered a perfect throw to home to retire Mitchell Holland and end the inning with just the lone run coming across. 

UCSB battled back to tie it again in the seventh with an unearned run. Mitchell opened that frame with a double – he also had a bunt single and two sacrifices to go along with his web gem on the day – then scored when Andrew Calica laid a bunt down the third base line and UCI starter Alonzo Garcia threw it into right field trying to get him at first. 

The loss nullified a solid relief outing from senior lefty Justin Kelly, who gave up just a single earned run over 4 1/3 innings while striking out five. Kelly, who missed two and a half months due to an elbow injury earlier this season, matched his longest outing of the year and kept the Gauchos in the game.

He was preceded by junior righty Trevor Bettencourt, who drew his first start in a Gaucho uniform after making three as a freshman at Tennessee in 2013. 

After allowing a leadoff single to Cassolato in the first, Bettencourt was extremely impressive over his first three innings, giving up no further hits over that time frame and using his big curveball for a trio of strikeouts.

Unfortunately he wasn't as effective his second time through the lineup, as UCI's 4-5-6 hitters all recorded hits to open the fourth, with two runs coming in on a triple to right from Cole Krueter. A sac fly later in the inning tied the game before Bettencourt made way for Kelly. 

UCSB's biggest inning came in the third, when they loaded the bases on a Kyle Plantier double, Mitchell bunt single, and Calica walk. However, the Gauchos were only able to cash in two runs in the frame, with both coming in on a bad throw home from Holland, the UCI first baseman, on a grounder from Gradford. 

Aside from a pair of questionable throwing decisions on the field, Garcia was effective in an eight inning outing for the Anteaters, limiting UCSB to just two earned runs on seven hits. Though he struck out just three, he was effective in pitching out of jams, holding the Gauchos to just three hits in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. 

Garcia did much of the yeoman's work for UC Irvine on Saturday, but it was closer Calvin Faucher who earned the win to improve to 2-0 on the year. He tossed a scoreless ninth before the Anteaters' walk-off in the bottom half of the frame. 

Kyle Nelson suffered just his second loss of the season, dropping to 6-2. 

UCSB will look to bounce back and claim the series win tomorrow evening in a 6:00 p.m. rubber match televised by ESPNU. That game will also be accessible on the WatchESPN app. As always, UCSBGauchos.com will have a live audio broadcast of the game, with Voice of the Gauchos Gerry Fall on the mic.