Gauchos Slug Past UC Irvine 11-3

Sam Cohen (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Sam Cohen (photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Junior second baseman Colton Burns went 4-5 and scored three times while sophomore DH Sam Cohen homered and drove in four runs to lead an offensive surge for UCSB in an 11-3 win over UC Irvine in Thursday afternoon's Big West contest at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

Cohen turned on a first-pitch offering from UCI starter Jordan Bocko in the fourth inning, depositing it over the right-center field fence for his fifth home run of the year. That roundtripper made the score 3-1 and put the Gauchos (14-17, 3-4 Big West) up for good. 

The Gauchos would put the game on ice in the next inning, as the offense strung together six singles out of seven batters – the lone out in that rally came off a laser line drive from Armani Smith hit right at UCI third baseman Parker Coss – to knock in four runs and make it 7-1 in favor of the home team. 

The struggling Anteaters dropped to 12-18, 1-3 with the loss. They've now lost 13 of their past 14 games. 

"We played well today, credit to the guys," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "Early on, we were kind of having some bad at-bats and reaching for pitches, but the guys adjusted. In the past, we've been guilty of [reaching] for seven, eight innings but they did a nice job their second and third time through the lineup."

Sophomore right-hander Noah Davis turned in a solid bounceback effort for UCSB to pick up the win, moving to 6-3 on the year. 

A week after allowing seven earned at CSUN, Davis scattered seven hits and gave up just two earned runs while pitching into the ninth for the first time this season. 

UCI was only able to get to Davis twice on Thursday, parlaying a leadoff double from Golden Spikes Watch List member Keston Hiura into a game-tying run in the fourth and then forcing Davis to labor through a two-run sixth inning.

The Anteaters got the first two runners of that inning on via a single and walk. When both of those runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, UCI was able to push them across despite not hitting a ball out of the infield. The first came in on an Alex Guenette grounder up the middle which required a nice stop-and-throw from shortstop JJ Muno, while the second came in on a Cole Krueter swinging bunt single down the third base line.

Davis put his foot on the gas pedal after UCSB built that big lead, recording a 1-2-3 shutdown inning in the seventh before allowing just one single in a shutout eighth. He struck out Ryan Fitzpatrick to start the ninth before handing off to freshman Conner Roberts, who induced a routine flyout before getting pinch-hitter Jake Hazard to offer at a breaking ball in the dirt to end the game. 

"Noah was a little in and out early, but then once he got a little momentum I thought he did a much better job," said Checketts. "His performance today is what we're expecting everytime he goes out there. We're a little more shocked when it's not like that and he has a bad one."

On a day where UCSB accrued 15 hits, one off its season high, offensive standouts were aplenty. Besides Burns and Cohen, JJ Muno tripled and drove in a pair, Kenny Corey scored three times and singled twice to give him multiple hits in four straight games, Austin Bush went 2-5 with a pair of RBIs, and Billy Fredrick singled in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to nine games. 

The Gauchos will go for the series win tomorrow behind junior southpaw Kyle Nelson (4-3, 3.74 ERA). UCI is expected to counter with right-hander Louis Raymond (4-3, 4.43 ERA). First pitch from Caesar Uyesaka Stadium is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. and UCSBGauchos.com will have live audio and video broadcasts of the game.