Bieber Comes Out on Top in Pitchers Duel as UCSB Edges UCR 2-1

Shane Bieber (photo by Vince Agapito)
Shane Bieber (photo by Vince Agapito)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif Junior right hander Shane Bieber gave up just one run, walked none, and struck out nine in a masterful start against UC Riverside on Saturday afternoon to steer No. 19 UC Santa Barbara to a 2-1 win and become the first Gaucho pitcher since 1983 to win 11 games in a single season. 

Thanks to a solo home run from Drake Zarate with two outs in the ninth, Bieber finished one out short of a shutout and his fifth complete game of the season. After leaving the game to an ovation from the Gaucho faithful, he watched teammate Kyle Nelson strike out Yeager Taylor on four pitches to finish off the win. 

It was the 22nd career victory for Bieber, moving him into a tie for third place all-time in the program annals. He is one of just four UCSB hurlers to ever notch 11 wins in one season, and only the second in the past 45 years. 

"He was down in the strike zone and was throwing his breaking pitches for strikes," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "His change-up was a difference maker today as well, he got guys to roll over on it all day. It was a competitive outing and besides that mistake in the ninth he was absolutely outstanding."

Following a leadoff single by Austin Colvin, Bieber proceeded to retire 13 consecutive Highlanders (25-29, 11-12 Big West). By the time the next UCR batter reached base, in the top of the fifth, UCSB (37-17-1, 13-10) had already mounted a 2-0 lead that would prove decisive. 

The Highlanders fared little better their third time through the lineup, managing a single in both the sixth and seventh innings, but neither runner advanced past first. Until Zarate's roundtripper in the ninth, on an 0-1 slider, UCR didn't even threaten to score a run. 

Bieber's counterpart, righty Ricky Delgado, had a fine game of his own, surrendering just two runs over six full. The tough-luck loser dropped to 1-8  on the year after coming up on the wrong end of the pitchers duel. 

Sophomore catcher Dempsey Grover scored both of UCSB's runs. He worked a one-out walk in the second, moved to second on a Delgado balk, then came in on a Billy Fredrick liner into right. Grover singled to center his next time up, in the fourth, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on another line drive single to right, this time from DH Josh Adams

Besides those two mini-rallies, the Gaucho offense was kept at bay for a second straight day. After Delgado's six innings of two-run ball, righty reliever Keaton Leach came in and pitched two shutout innings without allowing a hit. 

With his four-pitch day, Nelson notched his eighth save of the season. 

The Gauchos will aim for the series win tomorrow afternoon behind the right arm of Joe Record (5-4, 3.79 ERA) at 1:00 p.m. UC Riverside has not yet named its starter. A senior day ceremony will take place before tomorrow's game at approximately 12:45 p.m.