Gauchos Earn First College World Series Victory, Eliminate Miami

JJ Muno (2-4, RBI) celebrates after scoring the go-ahead run in Monday's win over Miami in the College World Series (photo by Vic Neumann)
JJ Muno (2-4, RBI) celebrates after scoring the go-ahead run in Monday's win over Miami in the College World Series (photo by Vic Neumann)

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OMAHA, Neb. – With the score tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning of Monday afternoon's College World Series game between UC Santa Barbara and No. 3 Miami, a storm rolled through the city causing a 62-minute rain delay. 

Once the clouds cleared and tarp was rolled off, the Gauchos started an offensive storm of their own, crafting a decisive four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to claim a 5-3 win over the Hurricanes, the first ever CWS victory in program history. 

The loss eliminated Miami (50-14) from the World Series. UCSB (43-19-1) has now knocked out two of the top three national seeds from the NCAA Tournament, with No. 2 Louisville being the other. 

The Gauchos will next play Wednesday night on ESPN at 6:00 PM CT against the loser of Monday night's Arizona-Oklahoma State game. 

"It was a pretty good battle, and our guys did a really good job of competing," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "I thought they did a really good job during the rain delay of kind of staying in third and fourth gear and being able to come out and land some more blows."

Just before the rain delay, junior right fielder Devon Gradford reached on an infield single to lead off the sixth. Following the break, Miami opted to keep left-hander starter Danny Garcia in the game, as he has retired 10 consecutive Gauchos before Gradford's base hit. 

The southpaw was not as sharp when the game re-started, and JJ Muno – UCSB's hottest hitter in the CWS – made him pay by ripping a line drive into the right field corner for a one-out double that put two runners in scoring position. 

After an intentional walk to Dempsey Grover to load the bases, junior infielder Ryan Cumberland was inserted to the game as a pinch-hitter and he promptly delivered UCSB's biggest hit of the Series despite battling the stomach flu all day. 

Facing a 2-0 count against reliever Frankie Bartow, Cumberland sliced a fastball inside the bag down the first base line for a two-run go-ahead single. 

"Right before I went up to hit Checketts said 'see something up,' and I got something up in the zone that I could hit well and happened to find a hole," said Cumberland.

UCSB contined to apply pressure after the big single, bringing in runs on back-to-back safety squeezes, a move that was helped along by a Miami throwing error on the first bunt attempt. 

The rally put UCSB up by four, a lead they have not squandered all season. 

With the gap, the Gauchos went to sophomore lefty Kyle Nelson, who entered the game with a perfect ERA over eight postseason innings. 

The Canes went on to threaten in the eighth with four consecutive hits that brought in a pair of runs, but Nelson bounced back from that by punching out Johnny Ruiz on a perfectly placed full-count front door slider to end the inning. 

Then in the ninth, he wiped out a one-out single with a double play ball, ending the game and earning his 10th save of the year by turning a 1-6-3 twin killing. 

The Hurricanes put the Gauchos on their heels in the first inning when Zack Collins, the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft, hit a solo homer to right off UCSB starter Noah Davis

But Davis was near unhittable after that roundtripper, allowing just one hit – an infield single – over the rest of his outing. 

The Orange County native went three-up, three-down in three of his last five innings, worked around a walk in a scoreless fourth, and finished his effort by getting three routine groundouts in the sixth. 

He ended his day with a line of one run on two hits with two walks and three strikeouts over six full, and he was likely to throw at least one more inning if not for the rain delay. 

"I just came out knowing that Miami has pretty good offense and that it was going to be really important to keep the ball down," said Davis. "The past two weeks I haven't really been able to do that, so that was my main focus and being able to cross count with offspeed pitches was very key today.

Muno evened the score in the bottom of the first by yanking a two-strike curveball through the right side to plate shortstop Clay Fisher, who reached earlier in the inning on an infield single. Both he and Gradford had two hits and a double on the day. 

"It's been a very special ride," said Muno. "This group cares for each other and they all have each other's backs and we all love each other. We're kind of just playing for each other, and it's an awesome feeling to have that camaraderie pay off and come out with a victory."

NOTES – Monday was the 24th time this season UCSB has won when the opponent scores first ... Nelson is the fourth Gaucho ever to hit the 10-save mark ... Last was Dillon Tate in 2014 ... Muno now has 20 multi-hit games on the year, extending his team lead ... UCSB's 43 wins against Division-I opponents are a program record, while the 43 wins against all opponents are third-most in program history ... Team record for wins is 46, set in 1984 ... UCSB is 5-2 all-time against ACC schools and 3-0 this season ... UCSB is 13-22 all-time in the postseason, 6-1 this year ... First CWS win by a Big West school since 2014 (UC Irvine) ... In the last three games, UCSB pinch-hitters have six RBIs while starters have three.