Big Fifth Inning Dooms UCSB in 7-3 Loss to New Mexico State

Armani Smith (photo by James Colon)
Armani Smith (photo by James Colon)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – New Mexico State scored six two-out runs, including a grand slam from Austin Botello, as part of a monster fifth inning to earn a 7-3 win over UC Santa Barbara in game one of the series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

UCSB (7-12) got on the board first on Friday, parlaying doubles from Armani Smith and Austin Bush and some late-inning wildness from NM State (14-9) starter Kyle Bradish into a three-run first. 

But it was tough sledding from there on out for the Gauchos as Bradish limited the home team to just three hits, all singles, over the remainder of his six-inning start. Bradish helped UCSB out a little bit with four walks, but UCSB had trouble coming up with a big hit down the stretch, stranding 11 runners over the course of the game.

"It seems like we always come out and we're ready to land blows early, but then we don't extend when we have chances," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "We had the guys we wanted up late in the game when we were trying to punch back, but we weren't able to have quality at-bats at that point."

NM State did the majority of their damage in the fifth against UCSB starter Noah Davis, who was agonizingly close to getting out of the inning unscathed. With two outs and an 0-2 count on Botello, Davis hung a slider over the plate and Botello crushed it down the right field line for a go-ahead grand slam after NM State loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. 

NM State wasn't done after the roundtripper, as its next three batters reached before shortstop LJ Hatch singled right back up the middle to bring in two more runs. 

The nightmare frame spoiled what was otherwise a decent start from Davis, who gave up just one earned over his first four innings. He ended the day with five strikeouts, three walks, and seven earned runs allowed over five full innings. 

A bright spot on the day for UCSB was the relief performance of sophomore righty Kevin Chandler, who turned in arguably the best outing of his NCAA career. Spelling Davis to open the sixth, the Valencia, Calif. native went on to give up just one hit – a leadoff single to Hatch in the eighth – over 3 1/3 innings. 

He handed off to Chris Lincoln with one away in the ninth, and the freshman right-hander promptly recorded the final two outs of the inning.

"Kevin did a real nice job today," said Checketts. "He gave us a chance, helped us stay in it, but unfortunately we weren't able to punch back late."

After Bradish departed, senior right-hander Mattew McHugh finished off the game with a three-inning save for NM State, giving up just one hit over his time on the mound. 

With a 2-5 line, Smith was UCSB's top offensive performer on Friday. The freshman from Martinez, Calif. now has multiple hits in five of his last six games and is hitting .467 in the month of March. 

The Gauchos and Aggies resume their series tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Junior lefty Kyle Nelson (2-2, 4.62 ERA) is slated to toe the rubber for UCSB opposite NM State righty Marcel Renteria (3-1, 3.75 ERA). UCSBGauchos.com will carry a live audio broadcast of the game.