LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Behind seven spectacular innings from junior right-hander Shane Bieber against one of the best offenses in the country, UC Santa Barbara earned a 4-2 victory over No. 2 national seed Louisville in the first game of the best-of-three Super Regional series at Jim Patterson Stadium.
With the victory, UCSB set a new school record for wins against Division-I opponents (41) and moved within a win of reaching the first College World Series in program history.
The Gauchos dealt the Cardinals just their second home loss of the season in 38 games, joining 2015 National Champion Virginia as the only teams to beat Louisville (50-13) on its home turf.
"The guys did a good job, they were in character," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. Shane was obviously himself and consistent in the strike zone, made some big pitches and that first inning to put up a zero was big. I liked the energy of our guys but they played pretty much mistake-free baseball, that's what you have to do to come on the road to this place and win a baseball game."
After falling behind 1-0 early, UCSB tweaked their approach against Louisville starter Brendan McKay – a projected first rounder in next year's draft – scoring off the southpaw in three of four innings starting with Clay Fisher's run-scoring bloop double down the first base line in the third.
Austin Bush, the Nashville Regional MVP for UCSB, followed up in the fourth by hitting a bullet over the center field fence for his fourth home run in as many postseason games. The solo shot put the Gauchos up for good at 2-1.
UCSB didn't let up after that, with second baseman JJ Muno singling and then scoring on a Kyle Plantier laser-shot double down the left field line for the eventual game-winning run. Muno had the last of three straight two-out singles in the fifth to bring in Devon Gradford for a key insurance run.
McKay – and righty Jake Sparger who pitched the ninth – rebounded to retire the final 13 Gauchos in order, but by then the damage had been done as Bieber was on his game for the Gauchos.
The junior righty, a fourth-round selection by Cleveland in yesterday's MLB draft, scattered eight hits over his seven innings and only walked one while striking out seven, all while facing a dynamic offense that ranks fourth in the NCAA in batting average and boasts the No. 5 overall pick Corey Ray as its leadoff man.
Bieber held Ray to an 0-4 day, including a key strikeout in the fifth. But after getting the U of L right fielder in the bottom of the first, he ran into a bit of trouble when he allowed a single to Will Smith before issuing his only walk of the game to Nick Solak.
In an inning that could have easily gone sideways facing the meat of the Cardinals' order, Bieber got some help from freshman right fielder Michael McAdoo who robbed Louisville of a run or more on a nice diving play off a McKay – who batted cleanup in addition to his pitching duties – liner. Bieber got Devan Hairston to bounce to short to end the inning unscathed.
He made a mistake in the second, hanging a slider to Blake Tiberi that resulted in a leadoff homer, but once UCSB got the lead he was in a zone. He faced just two over the mimimum during his final four innings, rolling up a key double play in the fourth, striking out the side in the sixth, and ending his day with a 1-2-3 seventh.
"In the second inning, I hung a slider and they took advantage of it pretty good over the right field wall," said Bieber. "I was able to put that behind me and just get ahead with all my pitches and let my defense make the plays they've made all year."
UCSB's ace ended up picking up the win to improve to 12-3 on the year. He is one of just three Gaucho pitchers ever to hit the 12-win mark.
UCSB sophomore left-hander tossed two shutout innings to close out the game and earn his ninth save of the season. He walked the leadoff batter in the eighth, but then recovered to send down the final six batters of the game in order.
McKay suffered the loss to fall to 12-4 on the year. It was the sophomore's first career loss at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Gauchos and Cardinals will resume their best-of-three series tomorrow at 9:00 AM PDT, televised either on ESPN2 or ESPNU. The game will be streamed on WatchESPN no matter which channel it ends up on. Louisville is expected to start 2016 ACC Pitcher of the Year Drew Harrington, a junior left-hander. UCSB's starter has not yet been announced.