Brecht, Bush Propel UCSB to 6-3 Win at Pepperdine

Ben Brecht (photo by Stephen Wandzura)
Ben Brecht (photo by Stephen Wandzura)

MALIBU, Calif. – Behind a fourth consecutive quality start from freshman Ben Brecht and a key seventh inning rally, UC Santa Barbara earned a 6-3 win over Pepperdine on Tuesday afternoon at Eddy D. Field Stadium. 

The first Gaucho this season to notch four straight quality starts, Brecht has helped UCSB go 3-1 in its last four midweeks after dropping the first two Tuesday contests of the season. 

The Gauchos have now won four of their past five games, improving to 16-18 on the season. Pepperdine dropped a game under .500 to 17-18 with the loss. 

Spotting his fastball on both sides of the plate, Brecht was able to keep the Waves off the board for the first six innings of the contest. The standout left-hander kept them at bay long enough for UCSB to build a 5-0 lead on a fifth-inning Billy Fredrick sac fly and a decisive four-run seventh. 

Brecht did a great job of picking up his UCSB teammates on Tuesday, shutting down or limiting potential rallies after defensive mistakes in the first, fourth, and seventh innings. 

In the first, the southpaw faced a two-on, one out situation after an error, but bounced back to induce back-to-back innocuous flyouts to end the frame.

Pepperdine got a runner on third with one out in the fourth after UCSB center field Tommy Jew tripped trying to field a line drive, resulting in a triple. But once again, Brecht buckled down and stranded the runner, inducing a check-swing groundout from Matt Kanfer before getting Matt Crowder to pop out to second to end the frame. 

The Waves did their only damage of the game against Brecht in the seventh, knocking in a three runs during an error-aided rally. Two of those runs came in on a bloop double from Jeremy Goldenetz down the left field line, but Brecht recovered to retire the next two batters and limit the damage to just one additional run. 

That escape act spelled the end of the day for him, giving him a final line of two earned runs on six hits over seven full innings with two walks and four strikeouts. He improved to 3-2 on the year after earning the decision. 

"He was in the strike zone and his slider and change-up were better today," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts of Brecht. "He had to pick us up defensively a couple times, and he was able to get it stopped for us both times."

Freshman righty Shea Barry went on to shut out the home team over the final two innings to pick up his first collegiate save. He faced the minimum in his outing, allowing just an infield single that was wiped out by a world-class turn at second base by Colton Burns on a 6-4-3 twin killing in the eighth. 

UCSB junior first baseman Austin Bush struck the biggest blow of UCSB's four-run rally, hammering a Christian Stoutland offering over the fence and just wide of the right field scoreboard for a two-run home run. 

The Gauchos continued to rally after Bush's blast despite having two outs and nobody on, parlaying one of Kenny Corey's four singles on the day and a JJ Muno walk into a pair of runs after both runners advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on a solid Armani Smith single back up the middle.

Reigning Big West Field Player of the Week Sam Cohen and Muno combined to add an insurance run in the eighth, with the former stroking a double into the right center gap before coming across on a Muno base hit. 

UCSB will take a break from Big West action this weekend, hosting Mountain West-member San Diego State for a three-game series starting Friday.