IRVINE, Calif. – Facing a 5-1 deficit in the eighth inning, sophomore DH Austin Bush walloped a Ben Ritchey fastball over the center field fence for a game-tying grand slam and then an inning later clubbed a three-run double off the left center field wall as part of another rally as No. 20 UC Santa Barbara came from behind for a huge 9-5 win over UC Irvine on Sunday night at Anteater Ballpark.
The first series win for UCSB (35-16-1, 12-9 Big West) at UC Irvine in 30 years and its first ever at the new Anteater Ballpark, the Gauchos all but cemented their at-large candidacy with the ESPNU-televised triumph.
With his power surge, Bush became the first Gaucho to notch seven RBIs in a game since current assistant coach Chris Valaika did so nearly 10 years ago to the day, May 21, 2006 against UC Davis. It was a nice turn of events for UCSB's powerful lefty, who entered the game mired in a 4-42 slump dating back to May 3.
"Talk about bouncing back and picking both himself and us up," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "It sure was a big swing and he blasted it both times. I'm happy for him and proud of him."
Behind a career start from Cameron Bishop, the Anteaters (29-24, 9-12) looked like they were cruising to a win in the rubber match before the tide suddenly turned in the eighth.
The UCI lefty, who struck out 11 in seven-plus innings, ran into trouble in the eighth with a leadoff hit by pitch and a single from shortstop Clay Fisher.
With two on and nobody out, UCI head coach Mike Gillespie elected to pull Bishop in favor of Richey. The righty reliever looked strong early with a strikeout of Devon Gradford, but things quickly unraveled with a two-strike single from Dempsey Grover that loaded the bases for Bush, who unloaded on a 2-1 heater for the game-tying blast.
Against Anteaters closer Calvin Faucher, UCSB had to wait until they had two outs to start the rally, which was kicked off by a JJ Muno single through the right side. After a hard-struck liner by Fisher resulted in an error, Faucher lost his control and walked the next two batters to bring in the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run.
At bat with the bases loaded for the second time in as many innings, Bush made UCI pay again with an opposite field double that bounced about halfway up the left-center field fence to empty the bags.
Nelson then shut the door with a perfect bottom of the ninth, inducing a weak nubber from leadoff hitter Parker Coss and then fanning the last two batters to earn the win and improve to 7-2.
Several other figures played prominent roles in the UCSB comeback.
Though he was roughed up for three runs in the bottom of the first, UCSB starter Joe Record was excellent over the rest of his outing after it looked doubtful he'd even make it out of the second inning.
The Plancentia, Calif. native gave up two unearned runs in the second, but did a good job to limit the damage in that rally. After that, he more or less shut down the potent Anteaters lineup, as only one runner got into scoring position – on a two-out double in the fifth – the rest of his time on the mound.
Record ended the day with a line of two earned runs on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts over six innings, the 12th time he's given up three earned or less in 14 starts.
Chandler took over in the seventh and shifted momentum in UCSB's favor with a dominant 1-2-3 inning. He went back out after the Gauchos tied it and recovered from a 3-0 count to cleanup hitter Mitchell Holland to get a groundout and keep UCI from putting the leadoff man on.
Nelson followed him up with one of his best outings of the year, retiring all four batters he faced and striking out three with a wicked three-pitch mix. He inherited a 2-1 count in the eighth and struck out pinch-hitter Andrew Martinez to strand the go-ahead run on third before his spotless ninth.
With two hits and a hit by pitch, Muno started both of UCSB's late rallies.
Finally, Fisher made a huge unsung play in the second inning, tossing a perfect relay throw home on a two-out double into the left field corner to cut down Keston Hiura at the plate and end the inning with no further damage.
UCSB will be right back in action on Monday afternoon, hosting Gonzaga in the final midweek game of the season at 3:00 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. It will be the fourth game for UCSB in as many days and the second in 24 hours.